Power companies need to take responsibility for the damage their lines are doing to birds

letter to the St. Albert Gazette, April 23, 2005

It has always been upsetting to see dead and injured birds along the stretch of trail by the square lagoon down by Big Lake and know exactly what the cause is.

A few years ago I even got in touch with the Power Company. Kevin Strangway, from what was then Trans Alta, was kind enough to meet with me and eventually put what he explained were “bird distracters” on one small section of wire. I’m not talking about the orange balls. He said they were there so airplanes and helicopters would know where the wires were. What I’m talking about are the curly wires wrapped around the one power cable. Kevin said they gave off some sort of sonic vibration that frightened the birds away. He finished by saying this was all they were prepared to do, so don’t call back. I assumed they were working but now know they are not.

Let me clarify why I contacted Strangway in the first place. Back in the spring of 1997, I was fishing on the bank of the Sturgeon River, in front of the culvert that drains water from the lagoon into the river. In a period of about one hour no fewer than five ducks flew into the power lines and fell dead into the river and eventually floated past where I was fishing. I was so ticked off at the power lines that I had to leave. I decided to go back the next afternoon and in a span of about 90 minutes nine ducks hit the wires and either plopped dead in the water or fell in the weeds on shore. The next day I got in touch with Strangway and he agreed to accompany me down to the BLESS lookout. Soon after we arrived a duck flies by and hits the wires and falls dead in the water and there are two more dead ducks stuck on the weeds. This is what prompted the power company to put up the “curly distracters.”

I continue to hike there but have never been back to fish. I suppose I was hoping the “distracters” worked but felt leery that they might not. Now I walk with my grandchildren. There was this beautiful blue/grey gull of some kind that fell right in front of our feet, not two feet away. I caught it and showed it to my grandson. “Look Papa!” he said. “He came to say hello.” I couldn’t tell him what really happened, not at four years old. Its one eye and nostril were bleeding and its tongue flicked in and out. I quickly wiped the blood away so he wouldn’t see it. We petted it while its head drooped then straightened up, then drooped again.

I told my grandson how important it was to love these creatures and make the world safe and clean for them. After a few minutes I told him I was letting it go in the grass so he could go back to his mommy and daddy. As he turned away I dispatched the poor suffering thing with one quick pull. Last week, as I was walking there again, a goose flew into the wires and two days later there was s dead mud hen on the path. No wonder there are always coyotes hanging around there.

Since the day those lines were erected, birds continue to fly into them. Not only where the lines cross over the river but also along the south side of the lagoon. It should make everyone sad to know that these brave creatures survive being born and raised in Canada’s great north, migrate thousands of miles south, then on their return to their birthplaces get racked from the sky to their death by these power lines.

Mr. Strangway, chances are you will eventually be a grandfather, too. What would you say to your grandchild in that circumstance? Would you simply tell him that you did everything you could? I hope not. Please try again.

Dennis Purschke, St. Albert

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Elke Blodgett