Eagles and wind farms don't mix, according to a study saying wind-energy facilities are responsible for killing at least 67 golden and bald eagles in the past five years
The study is the first attempt by the government to tally the amount of eagles killed by wind farms, which often consist of clusters of turbines that can reach a height of 30 stories with blades that can turn at speeds of up to 170 mph, according to The Associated Press
The 67 eagle death toll is considered a conservative estimate, the AP noted, with the figure potentially being much higher considering that the companies responsible for providing the figures do so voluntarily, leaving scientists to believe there are likely "substantially" underestimated.
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Annually, the Wildlife Society Bulletin reports
that more than 573,000 birds are killed by massive wind turbines in the U.S., which are becoming increasingly visible across the nation's landscape.
Of that 573,000 birds killed, approximately 83,000 of which are believed to be raptors or hunting birds, such as hawks, falcons and eagles, according to the Wildlife Society estimate that was published in March, the AP noted
With wind power producing no air pollution, the wind-energy industry has been a major part of President Barack Obama's environmental initiative since taking office.
Consequently, the number of eagle deaths attributed to wind turbines has increased significantly in recent years. In total, 85 eagles have been killed since 1997 according to the study, the vast majority of which were killed since 2008.
Of the 85 eagles reported dead, 79 were golden eagles.
A protected species since 1963, golden eagles experienced a drastic decline in their population during the 1950s due to targeted hunts by farmers and ranchers, who considered them to be a threat to their livestock. Nearly 20,000 golden eagles were subsequently killed primarily in the Northeast as a result of the hunt, according to New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation
The biggest threat to golden and bald eagles today is in California, in particular an area known as Altamont Pass, where a cluster of wind farms exist, the AP notes.
Despite the large amount of deaths being reported in California, Brian Millsap, the national raptor coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and an author of the study, told the AP that "It is not an isolated event that is restricted to one place in California, it is pretty widespread."
The research affirms an AP investigation in May, which revealed dozens of eagle deaths from wind energy facilities and described how the Obama administration was failing to fine or prosecute wind energy companies, even though each death is a violation of federal law.
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Presently, the American Wind Energy Association, which represents more than 1,200 companies associated with the wind power industry, said it is working with the government and conservation groups to find ways to reduce eagle casualties.
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