Each year thousands of cavity nesters — animals which prefer dark, narrow spaces for nesting and catching food — become entrapped and die in man-made structures such as ventilation pipes, fence posts, claim stakes and chimneys. A recent study of mining claim stakes in Nevada
uncovered more than 800 dead birds in a single field, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. In 2009, a California Audubon employee discovered a single irrigation pipe which contain the bodies of more the 200 dead birds
that had become entrapped and starved. And the problem isn't limited to private lands.
America's National Parks were created with the mission of conserving our nation's scenic wilderness and the wildlife that lives there; yet they must also accommodate the more than 280 million human visitors who walk, run, bike and drive through these lands every year.
Vault toilets, self-contained restrooms that function without running water, provide a handy solution to the problem of waste management, but they also require above ground ventilation pipes which can spell danger for cavity nesting birds. These birds enter the pipes and make their way into the vault where they become entrapped in effluent, eventually succumbing to starvation or disease. Fortunately, a simple fix can make these structures, and others like them, safe for wildlife.
Rock screens, designed to prevent non-degradable waste from entering the toilets, also effectively prevent animals from entering without compromising airflow or ventilation. For fence posts and claim stakes, simple and inexpensive plastic caps can be purchased which fit directly onto the open end of the pipe.
Encourage your friends and neighbors to take this problem seriously. Ask for rock screens to be installed on public vault toilets in your area, and urge landowners to cap open pipes and claim stakes. Take a walk around your own back yard and check for broken drain covers or irrigation pipes. It only takes a moment to cover these openings, but your efforts will go a long way toward saving wildlife in your area.
Photo: Oregon Department of Transportation/Flickr