Wildlife shelter partnership gives some birds a new lease on life

Duke Energy remains committed to siting, constructing, operating, and decommissioning our facilities in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner. This environmental responsibility includes conserving and minimizing impacts to natural resources, including avian and bat species and the habitats they use.

It is an unfortunate reality that electric power transmission and distribution lines are hazardous for birds. Birds sometimes fly into cables and wires. Such interactions between birds and power lines are potentially harmful or fatal to birds, can result in power outages, grass and forest fires, which in turn can harm other animals and/or properties. So, it is no wonder that every Duke Energy employee learns about our obligations to look out for birds and to comply with all state and federal regulations regarding them. 

At Duke Energy’s Brunswick Nuclear Plant, our commitment to environmental responsibility is apparent in how the plant is operated and in the actions of the employees. Not long ago, an operator spotted a downed bird near the road entering the plant and transported it immediately to the local rescue organization, Sea Biscuit Wildlife Shelter.

Sea Biscuit is a small non-profit organization, licensed by federal and state agencies to rescue and rehabilitate wildlife of all kinds, however they specialize in birds. Last year they rescued about 500 birds, rehabilitated them and then released them back into the wild. That happens only because of many, many volunteers and one, very dedicated woman: Mary Ellen Rogers.

Rogers is a bit of a legend in the Oak Island and Southport area. Some of the local Duke Energy employees volunteer there and coordinated the installation of a small pool for pelicans to use while they are healing. Dubbed the “Peli Pond,” there are now usually 4-6 pelicans there at any given time recuperating or healing so they can return to the wild.

Except Tim.

Tim-the-Pelican is a permanent resident. His injuries prevented him from being released, so now he travels the county visiting schools and festivals to help educate people about birds and how to avoid causing them hard.

It wasn’t long after Randy Gideon took the helm as site Vice President at the Brunswick Nuclear Plant that he heard of Sea Biscuit and Mary Ellen Rogers. It was during hurricane Matthew that he experienced first-hand what is involved in saving a wild bird. The storm had knocked down a pelican; disoriented and with a damaged wing, it wandered the street in front of Gideon’s home near Caswell Beach. After a quick call, it didn’t take long for someone from Sea Biscuit to come and capture the bird. The pelican, thereafter named Matthew, was transported to the shelter, given first aid and then joined the other pelicans in the large shared pen.

The pelican pen, and other enclosures fill Mary Ellen Roger’s backyard. When Duke Energy asked what else we could do to help, Rogers immediately said, “land.” She described the need to have more space, preferably near water, where the birds could have more solitude and a more natural environment.

And so the search began.

Turns out that there are several parcels of land, owned by Duke Energy, no longer needed for generation purposes, and not feasible to ever build houses or businesses on. Portions are leased to the county for parks and recreation, and one piece, which happens to lie along Dutchman’s Creek, is not currently be used for any purposes.

So although the process is still unfolding, last month, Duke Energy officials took a walk with Mary Ellen Rogers, noting to the land survey crew where we wanted the new boundaries to be. Boundaries for what we plan to be a new home for Sea Biscuit Wildlife Shelter. The land is just under six acres, is full of trees and natural habitat, and offers considerable waterway frontage where birds can easily be released back to the wild without transporting elsewhere.

There remains much work to do but getting this lease in place is a huge first step to help the great work done by Sea Biscuit continue for years to follow.

For Duke Energy, supporting Sea Biscuit is part of our commitment to protect the environment and give back to the community. No form of energy generation, or any human activity for that matter, is immune from impacts to the environment. So, in the words of Brunswick’s site Vice President, Randy Gideon, “when we find a community partner who is making a huge, positive impact, we will do what we can to support them.”

In this case, the support comes in the form of access to property where Sea Biscuit can grow. In addition, Gideon, says he expects the Brunswick Nuclear Plant to provide continued support in the form of volunteer labor to help build the needed structures.

This is just the first step, says Mary Ellen Rogers of Sea Biscuit. Once we have the lease in place, we have to raise funds to build enclosures and pathways. Our vision, though, is to create a space where the birds can thrive and where we can carry on our mission to educate the public.

Sea Biscuit Wildlife rescues about 500 injured birds each year, treating them and then releasing them back to the wild. The organization is currently operating out of the basement of founder, Mary Ellen Rogers’ Oak Island home. The organization also holds permits for educational birds which can be seen visiting local events and festivals so members of the public can learn about how to help prevent injury to all wildlife.

 

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