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Animal Advisory Commission weighs Monk parakeet deal

Monday, June 19, 2017 by Sommer Brugal

Austin’s population of Monk parakeets has garnered a lot of attention over the past few weeks, with some questioning Austin Energy’s policy for removing the birds’ nests from power lines and utility structures in town.

The Animal Advisory Commission heard from Elaina Ball at its June 12 meeting. Ball, who is the chief operating officer at Austin Energy, described what the utility is doing to ensure business practices are met while having minimal impact on the environment.

She also walked commissioners through a joint press release she authored with Joan Marshall, executive director of the Travis Audubon Society, regarding the matter. The press release reads:

“Travis Audubon Society and Austin Energy agree that while removal of nests from electric infrastructure may at times be necessary, all maintenance practices should have no more impact on wildlife than is essential to maintain public safety and electric reliability.”

According to Ball, Austin Energy isn’t removing nests indiscriminately. She stated only “very large, very combustible nests (are being removed) when they impose an extreme danger.”

Commissioner Craig Nazor said the situation reminded him of how the city used to handle its bat population.

“The bats under the bridge used to be considered a nuisance and the city used to talk about how to get rid of them,” said Nazor. “Then someone with a bit of vision came in and now the bats are a huge draw to Austin.”

He asked both the commission and Ball whether there was a way to account for parakeet habits in new structures the city is building. He cited the bats once more, saying there’s discussion about designing a bridge that provides them with a safer home.

Ball responded, “We’re really just looking for creative solutions.”

Though there isn’t a single, be-all and end-all solution, Austin Energy plans to look at what they are doing to see what changes can be made to either the company’s design or maintenance practices.

Moving forward, Ball said one thing Austin Energy can do, in partnership with the Travis Audubon Society, is to release information about resources residents can turn to for help during nesting season.

Photo by Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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