Reducing Trumpeter Swan mortality associated with power lines
Twenty years of conservation work on behalf of Wisconsin’s grasslands, wetlands, and other signature habitat areas have certainly seen some triumphs for Becky Abel, but none perhaps as indelible as the ongoing recovery of the Trumpeter Swan. In 1932, the worldwide population of the species was estimated at 69 individuals, but decades-long efforts at habitat protection and hunting curtailment, as well as the discovery of an unknown population of birds in Alaska in the 1950s, led to continent-wide reintroduction efforts and steady growth of the species. The 2010 population estimate was 46,225 birds. As Associate Director of The Trumpeter Swan Society, and in her previous role as Executive Director of the Wisconsin Wetlands Association, Becky’s broad mission has been to continue this success story, even in the face of growing threats.
“Trumpeter Swans offer potential to serve as ambassadors for broad conservation messages related to wetland loss, for responsible stewardship of the earth’s biodiversity, and to highlight threats to migratory birds,” she explained. “Unfortunately, human-caused hazards and habitat alteration continue to threaten the species’ long-term security.”
One such hazard is the profusion of power lines in or near nesting areas. Wyoming Game & Fish reports that at least 40% of documented swan mortalities are from power line collisions. Becky’s TogetherGreen fellowship project aims to change this by developing guidance documents that outline steps for partnering with electric energy companies across the U.S. to reduce Trumpeter Swan mortality associated with power lines.
Collisions can be significantly reduced through the use of bird diverters (devices attached to power lines that make them more visible) or by burying power lines adjacent to or crossing sensitive areas. Becky’s project will target hundreds of individuals among utility companies (along with The Avian Power line Interaction Committee) and conservation groups, and will outline the situation, established a strategy template that groups can use when working with energy companies, provide case studies of successful local group/power company partnerships, and describe types of diverters. Becky will also c create a brochure that groups can share with energy companies as they initiate partnerships and updated web pages describing the issue and offering recommendations.
“We want to build partnerships between unlikely allies—conservation groups and electric energy companies,” she added. “In addition to Trumpeter Swans, our work will benefit Tundra Swans, Whooping and Sandhill cranes, Pelicans, and other large, low-flying birds.”