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Power Poles Support Wildlife

May 11, 2023 ● By Brian Bretsch and Karly Combest
People putting up an electrical pole.

Ameren Illinois partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to install artificial nesting boxes on two power poles at Rend Lake. The nesting boxes will keep a family of ospreys from leaving the area. Photo courtesy of Ameren Illinois.

Ameren Illinois partnered with two different groups recently to install power poles to support wildlife in central and southern Illinois. Project 1: Two poles set with osprey nesting boxes at Rend Lake. Project 2: Two poles set to attract endangered bats outside of Tolono.
Habitat for Wildlife Humanity
By Brian Bretsch and Karly Combest
Endangered ospreys and bats have new places to roost thanks to Ameren Illinois linemen.
This spring, Ameren crews from Marion traveled to Rend Lake located in Jefferson and Franklin counties in southern Illinois to partner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to install artificial nesting boxes on two power poles. The nesting boxes will keep a family of endangered ospreys from leaving the area. The lake is an important source of food for ospreys, who dine almost exclusively on a fish diet. This osprey family had become favorites of tourists because of their proximity to a local boat ramp and the break water.
"We have several visitors who come out to take pictures of the current nest and others who come to the area to sightsee," said Gavin Richardson, park ranger in the Environmental Stewardship Department for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "That tree is getting really old and when the water level is lower, you can see a large hole in it. The tree is getting ready to fall into the lake so we are partnering with Ameren to put up two artificial nesting structures. We're very thankful for them."
The first nesting structure was placed to the southeast of the existing nest in Rend Lake. The second nesting box was set to the north in a more secluded area at the site.

"We love the partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers and are happy they reached out to our local vegetation supervisor, Aaron Hargan, to ask for assistance with this project," said Daniel Sullivan, superintendent of Electric Operations, Ameren Illinois. "Once we got approval from our regional leadership team, we jumped in to assist. We definitely want to see the ospreys stick around Rend Lake."
A few weeks later in Central Illinois, crews from Mattoon worked with a local organization, Grand Prairie Friends, at the Edna Edwards Burnett Land and Water Reserve to set power poles with the tops of each wrapped in manmade bark, known as Brandenbark, in hopes of attracting three protected bat species – Little Brown, Tri-Colored and Indiana bat. The artificial bark represents the dead wood bats prefer to roost in.

"Bats are important for the ecosystem — especially here in Central Illinois for agriculture," said Tara Hohoff, a biologist for the University of Illinois. "Bats help control the insect population. They eat corn earworm, larvae and mosquitos you see in your backyard."
Ameren Illinois has a robust Avian Protection Program so the osprey and bat nesting projects fit in with the company's philosophy of corporate stewardship. Ameren has completed several of these kinds of projects in its service territory, including installing a few nesting boxes around Carlyle Lake, Banner Marsh, near Canton, and Charleston.
"Any time an agency asks us to do something like this and it reflects our company values, we're more than happy to offer assistance," said Patrick Smith, senior vice president of Operations and Technical Services for Ameren Illinois. "It's great for the environment. It's great for the visitors of Rend Lake and Edna Edwards Burnett Land and Water Reserve. We are proud of our guys who were able to assist both projects.