Illegal shooting is now a leading cause of death of birds along power lines in the western USA
Human actions, both legal and illegal, affect wildlife in many ways. Inaccurate diagnosis of cause of death undermines law enforcement, management, threat assessment, and mitigation. We found 410 dead birds collected along 196 km of power lines in four western USA states during 2019 – 2022. We necropsied these carcasses to test conventional wisdom suggesting that electrocution is the leading cause of death of birds at electrical infrastructure. Of 175 birds with a known cause of death, 66% died from gunshot. Both raptors and corvids were more likely to die from gunshot than from other causes, along both transmission and distribution lines. Past mitigation to reduce avian deaths along power lines has focused almost exclusively on reducing electrocutions or collisions. Our work suggests that, although electrocution and collision remain important, addressing illegal shooting now may have greater relevance for avian conservation.
|Illegal shooting is now a leading cause of death of birds along power lines in the western USA
|Eve C. Thomason, Natalie J.S. Turley, James R. Belthoff, Tara Conkling, Todd E. Katzner
|USGS Publications Warehouse
|Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center