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DOW and LPEA team up to save raptors

By large bodies of water, high up in the trees, nest the osprey.

Diving from the air, feet first with wings spread out, they enter the water to catch their prey.

The large raptor, one of the birds of prey, at first glance is possibly confused with a bald eagle, however, when seen while soaring overhead, the white belly gives the osprey away.

At Echo Lake, just south of Pagosa Springs, one nesting pair of osprey had built one of their nests on a La Plata Electric Association telephone pole along U.S. 84.

“The pair of raptors chose a powerline pole to build their nest on,” said Colorado Division of Wildlife officer Adrian Archuleta. “The nest became a fire hazard.”

Not only was the nest a fire hazard, but when nesting near live wires, the osprey puts itself at risk. LPEA marketing communication specialist Indiana Reed said that before many of the raptors land in their nests, they spread their wings. The average wingspan for the osprey is between five to six feet. In this display of wingspan prior to landing, the raptor’s wings or talons can make contact with the live wires and the bird can be electrocuted.

Because of the risks, Colorado DOW and LPEA worked together to remove the nest and install an inactive telephone pole and platform on which the osprey can build their nest.

The first step was to observe the existing nest and make sure that it was no longer in use. Under the Migratory Bird Act, it is illegal to move any part of an active osprey nest.

After months of observation, the DOW confirmed that the nest was inactive, and the nest was removed.

Next, the inactive telephone pole was placed in a favorable location, close to Echo Lake.

Archuleta has designed a platform for the osprey nest. The platform, said Archuleta, has pieces of wood protruding in a V shape to attract osprey. He has also placed the beginnings of a nest on the platform. Last Thursday, with the help of LPEA, Archuleta mounted the platform to the pole.

At the base of the pole, green sheet metal was added to keep raccoons from climbing the pole in search of osprey eggs.

“Hopefully, this will help mitigate the loss of raptors,” Archuleta said. He added that similar attempts have been made in southwest Colorado in the past several years and have been successful.

In the 1950s, the osprey populations in North American decreased to the point of endangerment due to use of chemicals like DDT, which thinned the birds’ eggshells. Since then, the osprey, along with most raptor species, has been under some type of federal or state protection, such as the Endangered Species Act, Eagle Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In recent decades, the osprey population has healthily rebounded, but there are still guidelines for the bird’s protection.

Since it has been common to see the raptors build their nests atop telephone poles, electric associations have guidelines to follow. The first, put in place in the early 1970s by the Rural Electrification Association, included specifications for building power lines that, by design, would dissuade raptors from nesting. Currently, the LPEA follows Raptor Protection standards when constructing power lines.

lindsey@pagosasun.com

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