Animals Frightened by Overhead Power Lines – New Research
Thanks to one of our followers for bringing new research to our attention that suggests animals around the world are scared away from overhead power lines because they give off ultra-violet (UV) flashes invisible to humans (BBC News). The flashes, or corona, occur when charge builds up in an overhead electricity transmission line conductor and is released into the air. An international team of scientists has determined that most mammals – but not humans – can see, and are sensitive to, UV light.
Reindeer in the arctic will avoid overhead transmission lines and keep as much as 5 km (3 miles) away from either side of the lines. One of the lead scientists on this research, Prof. Glen Jeffery, has found that almost 40 mammal species are sensitive to UV light and said, “Most mammals will let some (UV light) into their eye.”
Prof. Nicholas Tyler, another of the lead research scientists, said, “As a result of this work, we now consider them (overhead transmission lines) as chains of flashing light stretching across the tundra in the winter darkness, and that’s why the animals find them offensive.” Tyler added the random and unpredictable nature of these flashes were particularly problematic, as the animals could not easily adapt to them. The researchers indicated, since coronas “happen on all power lines everywhere”, the avoidance of the flashes could be having a global impact on wildlife. This research may well also explain why livestock including dairy cattle, beef cattle, horses, pigs and sheep are stressed near overhead transmission lines.
As new research continues to uncover mechanisms to explain why humans, wildlife, pets and livestock are negatively impacted by overhead power lines (health and behaviour), the important question is, “What will governments, health agencies and the transmission industry do to address these impacts?” To date, very little has been done to reduce the number of overhead transmission lines being built around the world. RETA continues to advocate for burying high voltage power lines to eliminate the negative impacts of above-ground lines.