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Bald eagles and power lines deadly mix

Alarming increase in eagle deaths from power lines

HOUSTON | April 4, 2012

At least seven bald eagles have died from encounters with power lines in East Texas, an alarming increase for the rebounding species, wildlife officials say.

Collisions or electrocutions involving power lines killed birds in six Texas counties, they said.

"It is happening more often, and because of the eagles' resurgence, it is going to increase," Jim Stinebaugh, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent, told the Houston Chronicle.

Power poles and lines are attractive to the eagles, which use them as perches from which they can spot prey.

The problem arises when electricity transmission wires are closer than the distance of an eagle's wingspan, which ranges from 6 feet to 8 feet.

"The danger comes from the potential to touch two lines," said Jeff DallaRosa, ecological programs manager for CenterPoint Energy Inc., which provides power to Houston. "The eagle is such a large bird that a lot of poles do not have that kind of spacing."

CenterPoint has made proposals to prevent electrocutions that include installing "raptor guards" to prevent eagles from roosting on wires and poles and working with wildlife groups to identify lines near nests for extra precautions.

"The young ones can be awkward and do not make the best decisions," DallaRosa said.

The eagle population in Texas has continued to grow at a rate of about 10 percent a year, officials estimate.

The U.S. Interior Department removed bald eagles from the protection of the Endangered Species Act five years ago, with about 10,000 mating pairs nationwide.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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