Stories & Features

BC Hydro crew rescues osprey dangling from power pole

Image of a rescued osprey returned to its nest
A rescued osprey looks back at BC Hydro power line technician Greg Hiltz after being placed back in its nest. The bird was rescued by a BC Hydro crew near Ashcroft after it was found dangling from baling wire on a nearby power pole.

Huge bird was caught in baling wire it was likely carrying to nearby nest

Greg Hiltz found himself face-to-face with a frantic osprey that had become trapped by baling wire (a type of flexible wire often used to fix fences) and dangling from a BC Hydro power pole alongside the Bonaparte River near the B.C. Interior community of Ashcroft.

By the time Hitz and apprentice power line technician Zac McKee arrived on the scene, the osprey was tired. That made the delicate undertaking, a two-hour operation the duo performed from a BC Hydro bucket truck, at least a bit easier.

"The challenge is to not get bitten by the bird and to wrap it up without hurting it," recalled Hiltz following the rescue operation during a hot evening amid April's unseasonable heat wave. "Electrically, we were safe because we had everything de-energized around it."

The BC Hydro workers are no stranger to animal rescues atop power poles, but they usually involve adventurous cats. So they used familiar equipment – an old raincoat – to protect both themselves and the animal. It was McKee's job to carefully wrap the osprey so that it could be safely freed from the baling wire it had likely picked up from a farmer's fence to use in building its nearby nest on a BC Hydro-built platform.

"While Zac worked from behind the osprey to wrap it in the raincoat, I was in front of the bird's face, using my hands to try to distract it so that Zac could wrap it up," said Hiltz. "Fortunately, the bird was tired, so that was to our advantage."

Image of a trapped osprey dangling from a BC Hydro power pole
The BC Hydro crew were tasked with using a bucket truck to access and rescue the osprey, which dangled helplessly from a power pole.

Injured bird was returned to its nest on BC Hydro-built platform

Once the bird was freed from the baling wire, it was decision time. The crew discussed whether the bird, which was at least slightly injured, should be taken down to the ground or placed in its nearby nest.

"The osprey had obviously injured its leg, but it didn't appear to be broken," said Hiltz, who had asked a friend, among those gathered to watch below, to retrieve a large recycling bin the bird could be carried in if necessary. "We gave the leg it had been hung up on a gentle tug, and the bird didn't flinch. And you know how a broken bone feels like. So we made our best guess and decided to take it back to its nest."

The osprey's nest had been built on a platform atop a nearby pole, one of dozens across the province that BC Hydro has built in an effort to dissuade birds from nesting atop actual power poles. In some cases, BC Hydro has used bucket trucks to move existing nests, out of nesting season when no birds are around, to the newly constructed platforms.

Hiltz took the time to take close-up photos of the exhausted, but wary, bird in its nest. It's not something he'll ever forget.

"It was pretty cool to see him up close and personal, that's for sure," said Hiltz, who has lived in Ashcroft, a small community near Cache Creek, since moving from his native Nova Scotia to join BC Hydro in 2014. "In one of the pictures in the nest, you can see it has its wings up, and it appeared to be OK, just really, really tired."

After finishing the job by removing the dangling wire from the power pole, the crew members returned to the ground to the applause of the small group of onlookers. The osprey, however, hasn't yet recovered. The next day it was found struggling near the river and was taken to the BC Wildlife Park in Kamloops for possible medical assistance. The wildlife park's Fawcett Family Wildlife Health Centre cares for more than 400 animals, annually, and accepts most birds, reptiles, amphibians and small mammals.

Video: BC Hydro workers rescue trapped osprey