North Jackson Down-the-Line Initiative
Each year, Trumpeter Swans are killed due to collisions with electrical power lines that block access to and from crucial waterways in Jackson Hole. These losses have seriously impacted efforts to restore the threatened Trumpeter Swan population in our region. The area most notorious for swan casualties was the north Jackson power line that ran from the north edge of Jackson to the National Elk Refuge along Cache Street. The power lines posed a considerable hazard to Trumpeter Swans due to the large number of birds that used the area in the winter and to the persistent low fog along the creek. Swans congregate in large numbers on Flat Creek in November, and some use the area throughout the winter depending upon ice conditions.
Since 1991, the Wyoming Game & Fish Department had documented 186 swan mortalities in western Wyoming, with 12.5% of these definitively resulting from collisions with power lines, fences and bridges. However, 73% of mortalities died from unknown causes, and based on historic estimates, they believe it is likely that up to 40% of mortalities are caused by collisions.
It is estimated that at least 10 fatalities during that time period had occurred due to collisions with power lines on Flat Creek. In winter 1999/2000, at least three swans died in this area. Fences are also a serious problem for trumpeters and lead to mortalities each year. Given the fact that Trumpeter Swans rarely produce young before five years of age, and that even mature pairs fail to raise young every year, reducing mortality during the winter is critical for swan conservation.
To us, the solution was obvious: bury the power lines. To make this happen, the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation launched a campaign to raise funds to bury this notorious stretch of power line and called it the "North Jackson Down-the-Line Initiative." We worked with Lower Valley Energy (LVE), the National Elk Refuge, the Teton Conservation District, a local excavation firm, ten year old Nicole Halpin, and the community of Jackson to bury 0.9 miles of power lines and by doing so, eliminated a significant danger to Trumpeter Swans. Trenches were dug and new power lines were buried. The old overhead lines adjacent to Flat Creek were disconnected and removed. This work was completed 2002. The Wyoming Department of Game & Fish has continued to track the number of swan fatalities in the Jackson Hole area, and the reduction in deaths in the Flat Creek area has been dramatic.
Our community owes a debt of gratitude to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for their generous grant of $60,000 and the agencies and individuals who provided matching funds and services totaling $60,000 to support this effort. The total project cost of the work is $160,000. If you would like to donate to future power line burial projects to help preserve Trumpeter Swans in Jackson Hole, call 739-0968 for more information. Also see Trumpeter Swan Fund.