About twice a month, many of Australia’s wind farms receive an important visit from dogs and their handlers. The dogs are professionals and know exactly what they’re there for. Eagerly, they run along transects under the wind turbines, sniffing until they catch a scent, then lying down, sitting or freezing once they’ve located their targets: the carcasses of bats and birds that were killed by turbine collisions.
For nearly two decades, wind and wildlife ecologist Emma Bennett’s company, Elmoby Ecology, has been using canines to count the victims of wind turbines in southern Australia. The numbers are troubling. Each turbine yields four to six bird carcasses per year, part of an overall death toll from wind turbines that likely tops 10,000 annually for the whole of Australia (not including carcasses carried away by scavengers). Such deaths are in the hundreds of thousands in North America. Far worse are the numbers of dead bats: The dogs find between six and 20 of these per turbine annually, with tens of thousands believed to die each year in Australia. In North America, the number is close to a million.
In fact, some experts predict that turbine collisions could drive certain bat species to extinction. “It’s the No. 1 threat facing our small microbats,” Bennett says.
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