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Seeley Lake students save osprey nest - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Seeley Lake students save osprey nest

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SEELEY LAKE - A live power line with 50,000 volts doesn't sound like a place to build a home. However, an osprey nest has created a dangerous situation for the bird and the people of Seeley Lake.

Osprey are a common sight soaring over the mountains of Montana, searching waterways for food, and resting in their huge nests. Typically, an osprey will build its home near water with a strong fish supply and these birds aren’t afraid to find a location near a community.

An osprey recently decided to make Seeley Lake it’s home, but on top of a 50,000-volt power line. It's a scenario that could leave many homes without power and makes for a dangerous living quarters for the bird.

"If they start getting twine string and stuff in there, which they inevitably will do… on a day like today that twine string gets wet, gets down on a hot phase… it will either knock the line out or start the top of the pole on fire and that’s probably a $30,000 dollar pole," Barton Peterson with Missoula Electric Coop said. 

Now, instead of destroying the nest, Mrs. Bartlett a science and math teacher at Seeley Lake Elementary School worked with Missoula Electric and Pyramid Mountain Lumber to help relocate the nest. Bartlett turned to her student’s creativity to turn an unfortunate situation into a learning moment.

"We did engineering projects, so one of the engineering projects is we designed osprey nest poles," Patti Bartlett said. "We brought in all the elements."  

The students tested different models until they created a nest platform that would make for a safe environment.

Dr. Jenelle Dowling with the Wings Over Water Program said this experience teaches the students responsible use of the environment through sustainable practices.

"It’s really important for folks to see how difficult it is for wild animals not only to survive but to successfully reproduce. There is so many things stacked against them. I think when you realize everything they go through from migrating 4,000 miles round trip and then coming back... you think of how to make things easier for them and how to minimize the impacts of humans," Dr. Dowling said. 

Not only are the students learning the importance of environment, but also community. "I like how we got to work together as a whole class and do something for the community," 8th grader Sara Stevenson said. "We all got a chance to do this."

The osprey have migrated for the winter, but once they come back Mrs. Bartlett and her students will observe how the birds take to their new home.

Missoula Electric Coop donated a brand new pole for the nest and Pyramid Mountain Lumber donated a part of their land where the nest platform was installed. 

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