Monday, November 17, 2008

Hot Ass!

I suppose that headline will get some readership numbers...

Dianne Moller, a raptor rehabilitator from Milton, was mystified when the burned hawks started showing up about eight years ago.

The feathers on the big red-tailed hawks had been scorched. Over the last several years, other large raptors with burn injuries also showed up, including two great horned owls. Moller nursed them back to health, a long and involved process because of the extent of the injuries.

"It's painful for the birds," Moller noted. "And probably more so psychologically. They don't understand they can't fly; they just keep trying."

And Moller started asking questions. Turns out it's the local landfill.

For a while, she thought the birds were somehow being electrocuted. But the injuries didn't seem to match. Then she heard from another rehabilitator who turned her attention toward pipes used to burn off the methane gas that collects beneath landfills.

Moller found two tall pipes at the landfill. The pipes ignite intermittently to burn off the gas. Working with other rehabilitators around the country who have treated birds with similar burns, Moller figured out that the raptors were perching on the tall, 30-foot pipes to scan the landfill for prey. When the pipes flared with no warning, the birds were caught in the flames.


Not to worry. It's been fixed.

Working with the landfill operators, Moller and others came up with a solution that is likely to be used at other landfills — stainless-steel spikes attached to the pipe that prevent the birds from perching. Mandy Bonneville, the assistant operations manager of the landfill, said the solution was welcome.

"We want the hawks," Bonneville said. "They help control the rodent populations."

Win-win. The birds kill off the rats and mice which are indigenous to landfills. If I were the landfill folks, I'd put up a couple more of those pipes--not connected to anything--to keep the raptors where they want them.

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