A pole to perch on and eat his freshly caught gray squirrel is all mister owl was interested in; whether it was in a wildlife easement, or carrying 7,200 volts of electrical energy didn't matter. Little did mister owl know that he was flirting with disaster. It wasn't until he was careless, and touched two of the wires, that in a flash the awesome electrical energy in the line ended his life.
"I see a lot of that sort of thing happening to Great Horned Owls, especially in spring," Jon Paxton, a CEC serviceman said, as he pried the owl off the fuse block on the top of the pole.
Unfortunately that is an all too common tragedy, but it is not the fault of CEC or other power distribution companies. They spend a lot of time and money trying to make poles safe for raptors. The bottom line is that the growing area requires a great deal of electricity to pump water, keep homes warm, allow families to cook meals and also power electronic devices and lighting. Distribution of all that energy requires transmission lines and poles to support them and it is unfortunate that occasionally an owl, hawk or eagle runs afoul of the needs of Man. It is impossible to check all the poles, but with your help reporting raptor electrocutions, CEC and other power companies will eventually cure the problem.
The raptor safety project carried out on poles near the Lazy Z ranch east of Sisters is a typical example of how hard CEC works to protect our natural resources. An adult American Bald Eagle was recently observed attempting to land on the power pole across from the Lazy Z barn, but when it saw the triangle "excluders" on the cross-arms it veered off and went to perch in the cottonwood across the field. Chances are, even if it had landed on the top of the excluder, it would have been safe anyway because of the insulators fastened to the wires on the cross-arm.
When a raptor electrocution takes place, CEC responds with protection, usually within hours. The US Fish and Wildlife Service makes sure they do, but it is also a high priority on the part of CEC to get the job done, and as quickly as possible. Sometimes a raptor electrocution causes a disruption to electrical distribution that can cost a lot of money to correct.
The power poles along the big pivot irrigated fields between Sisters and Bend adjacent to Highway 20 are also equipped with insulators that make it safe for hawks and owls that perch on them, as they look over the hay fields for gophers.
Not too many years back, I found three dead bald eagles under a transformer on the shoreline of an irrigation pond out near Hampton. The power company was out the next day curing that problem. It was the same when eight dead eagles were discovered under a transformer south of Burns on the road to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. It would be wonderful if we could stop the shooters from killing eagles as quickly...
Thankfully, we have a very good population of Great Horned Owls in the vicinity, so one electrocution will not harm them overall, and we can be rest assured, if Jon Paxton and CEC have anything to do with it, pole number 126867 will never electrocute another owl or other raptor; it will have insulators installed to eliminate that possibility.