Eaglets electrocuted by PPL power lines Utility company places protective rubber coating over wires near nest to prevent future incidents

| 29 Jul 2015 | 11:44

By Anya Tikka
Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center rescues distressed animals as a rule, but recently, badly burned eaglets caught a lot of attention. The young eaglets’ feet had been burned from PPL Electric Utilities power lines, one so badly that it had to be euthanized, Katherine Uhler, center director, said in a phone call. One of the three siblings at the preserve is still being cared for at the center after undergoing surgery, and the third one is still in the wild.

The eagles were found at Pocono Lake Preserve, Pocono Lake, on July 15. Uhler explained, “We received an immature bald eagle that had a bad electrocution injury.” She continued, “That was the second fledgling eagle electrocuted on the same wire in the same community in just over a week.”

Uhler described the young eagle: “This bird is a fledged nestling, which means that he is full grown but hatched this year, probably in April. One of his siblings also was electrocuted and had to be euthanized because he was so badly injured.”

On a Facebook post, Uhler asked for prayers for the eagle, who was in some pain and would have a thorough exam at Wright Veterinary Medical Center the following morning. He was so badly injured it took weeks of nurturing for him to be able to withstand surgery, but on July 28 he was well enough to be taken to the center to have surgery for a femur fracture on his right leg, Uhler said.

After surgery, she said, “The eagle is now recovering from burns and tissue damage from the electrocution. Its treatment involves daily leg soaks and a range of motion physical therapy, antibiotics and other medications, topical treatment for burns and fluid therapy. The eagle also has to be fed by hand, as he cannot eat on his own at this time,” Uhler added.

She contacted Pennsylvania Power & Light (PPL) and received a swift response.

“Paul Canevari from PPL not only assured me that PPL went to Pocono Lake to check out the situation, but that they fitted a rubber boot to hopefully prevent the third and last eaglet from this nest from suffering the same fate as his/her siblings. I forwarded several articles outlining ways in which power lines have been retrofitted to protect birds out west that Mr. Canevari appreciated.”

Joe Nixon, strategic communications manager at PPL Electric Utilities wrote in an email PPL’s view of the incident: ”When PPL Electric Utilities learned of the eaglet contacts on the line at Pocono Lake Preserve, we touched base with Pocono Wildlife and also sent two crews and an environmental professional to the area of the nest.

Crews were able to place some protective rubber coating over the wires near the nest to help minimize the risk to the remaining eaglet in the nest. It was a unique situation, and we were glad to help. However, installation of similar temporary protection elsewhere is not planned nor is it standard practice. The hot weather did not play a factor here. The young birds were likely shocked when they contacted two different parts of the power line equipment at the same time, creating a path to ground.”

The community around Pocono Wildlife stepped in to help the distressed bird. Julia Gumm donated a foot spa to soak the eaglet’s feet and administer evening meds, after a Facebook post by Uhler asked for one. “One young eagle sibling remains at the preserve, hopefully now protected from the electric lines from remedial work done by PPL,” Uhler concluded.

The center can be contacted at 570-402-0223, or visit www.poconowildlife.org for more information.