Written by Becca Habegger, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
DECORAH (KWWL) -
Following the death of two of the famous Decorah eagles -- one as recently as just last week -- Decorah high school is working to prevent this tragedy for other large birds.
The eagles died by electrocution on a power pole: one in July and the other in November.
The students of Decorah High School in Mr. John Condon's industrial technology class have been working since last week on a project that will save lives.
Aric Luzum is a sophomore in the class. As a Decorah native, he is very familiar with the eagle cam that made Decorah a name in households worldwide.
"My mom's a teacher, and I ended up having to watch it every night because she wanted the update for her kids for the next day, so I got pretty used to watching the eagles," Luzum said.
After the first eagle got electrocuted in July, an organization called Raptor Nation started raising funds for this school project.
Condon explained how landing on a power pole can kill a large bird.
"If the eagle lands here and touches this wire and then touches this wire," Condon said, gesturing to a mock power pole in his classroom with three wires running parallel to each other, "then they become part of the circuit, and there's voltage between these two wires. Very high voltage...That's instant electrocution."
He said the birds' long wingspan makes them more susceptible to simultaneously touching to wires.
The perches the students are building give eagles a higher place to land, away from the dangerous wires.
"We're putting the brace on so it will hold it equal, so when the bald eagles sit on it, it doesn't tip on them," Luzum said, holding up a tall wooden structure.
The students are constructing 20 of these for Alliant Energy to install on power poles, with funds and materials from Raptor Nation and Decorah Building Supply.
"If Alliant Energy and all the local power companies, the RECs, are willing to put these up, I would bet that other schools and their industrial technology programs would be more than willing to participate. It gives students a great project," Condon said. "There's really accurate measuring and very accurate cutting."
It's a winning situation for everybody: the students learn, the eagles survive and the birds' millions of fans will be able to keep following the eagles' lives.
"Just simply by agreeing to help with this project, I've got thank you cards from Saskatchewan; Mobile, Alabama; North Dakota; Illinois," Condon listed.
Alliant Energy spokesperson Justin Foss said the company plans on installing the 20 perches in early 2013.
Alliant worked with wildlife experts to determine the areas most heavily-traveled by the Decorah Eagles and will install the perches on power poles there.
Foss said the company understands 20 perches won't solve the whole problem, but he said Alliant hopes it can help. He also said an eagle electrocution can not only kill the bird but also cause a temporary pause in service for Alliant customers.
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