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Nesting hawks prove problematic for Colorado Springs Utilities

By: MATT STEINER matt.steiner@gazette.com
April 1, 2016 Updated: April 2, 2016 at 7:36 am
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photo - Kirsta Scherff-Norris, a Wildlife Biologist with CSU, and Rick Harness with EDM check out a utility pole that recently housed a hawk nest, until its removal by CSU, and discuss ideas for long-term prevention of hawk nests being built on this utility pole off Grashio Dr on Friday, April 1, 2016. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette.
Kirsta Scherff-Norris, a Wildlife Biologist with CSU, and Rick Harness with EDM check out a utility pole that recently housed a hawk nest, until its removal by CSU, and discuss ideas for long-term prevention of hawk nests being built on this utility pole off Grashio Dr on Friday, April 1, 2016. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette.  

A pair of biologists walked the power lines along Grashio Drive in northern Colorado Springs on Friday morning trying to figure out what to do about a pair of nesting red tail hawks that return to an electric pole in the area.

Colorado Springs Utilities officials were alerted to the birds' presence March 11 when a Utilities worker drove down the street with more than a dozen utility poles lining its eastern edge. The hawks chose one of the more cluttered poles on the line to make their home, creating what Utilities spokesman Steve Berry called "a high-risk" situation.

"Our goal is to deter them from nesting and encourage them to build their nest in a natural, safe environment like a tree," said Kirsta Scherff-Norris, a Utilities wildlife biologist.

Utilities crews have visited the area every three or four days since to shoo the birds away and remove more nesting material, Scherff-Norris said. Grashio Drive resident Jim Clark, who lives adjacent to the power lines, said the hawks have used the electric pole as home for more than a year.

The Clarks enjoy watching and taking photos of the hawks from their back porch. Clark said he's concerned utility workers are spending too much time on something he believes is a nonissue.

"They've been out four or five times to tear the nest down," he said. "It doesn't make sense. Let them (the hawks) build. Whatever happens, happens. It's nature."

Berry said nesting material near the lines creates a hazard that could lead to power outages, burned poles or even fire.

"We'll keep pulling them (the nests) down," Berry said. "The risk is too high."

Utilities electric section leader Alan Katz, who was at the site Friday, said birds sometimes gather metallic material to build nests - and that can conduct electricity and potentially create dangerous sparks.

Rick Harness, a raptor biologist with the private consulting firm EDM International, walked the lines with Scherff-Norris on Friday. He concluded that Utilities needs to install "stick deflectors" on the cross beams that secure electric lines to the poles. Each deflector costs $35.

Harness, who specializes in bird of prey electrocutions and collisions with power lines, said the strong, plastic devices are "very effective" in deterring birds from nesting.

"The birds will return and try to defeat it," he said, noting that the small, peaked shield will simply knock twigs and other material to the ground.

Scherff-Norris said if the deflectors are used, they would likely be installed on each pole along Grashio Drive. Other modifications would also take place to further deter the birds.

Colorado Springs Utilities is expected to begin the work along Grashio sometime in the next two months, Scherff-Norris said.

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