Landfills, also known as dumps, can be
sources of various environmental hazards, and often have a negative
impact on wildlife. Some of the more common issues are caused by:
rings which can cause strangulation
wrap that can cause fatal intestinal blockage
fishing line, more often found in lakes and ponds that can wrap
around various body parts and cut off circulation often leading to
Solid waste landfills (aka. sanitary
landfills) contain organic matter that produces Landfill Gas (LFG)
primarily composed of Methane (CH4
) during decomposition.
Further, active landfills often have an abundance of rats and mice,
which are an excellent food source for various raptors.
Landfill gas can be a threat to human
health and contributes in a small way to global warming. Flaring or
utilizing the Methane for energy greatly reduces its climate change
impact, eliminates an explosive hazard, and can reduce harmful chemicals
Perhaps there will be more emphasis in the
future to get useful energy from the methane rather than wasteful
burning it in stacks. There are many other industrial uses where a gas
is burned in a stack, however this paper is primarily about landfill
pictured is 12 ft (3.6 m) in Diameter and 60 ft (18.3 m) High
Impact on Raptors
The nature of the landfill produces a
treeless landscape. Because of the height of the burner stack it makes
an attractive perch for raptors waiting for rodents and other prey.
The burners have an igniter that causes a
sudden flare, which can scorch or even kill anything perched on top,
flying overhead or actually inside.
This paper is meant for general awareness
of the methane burner issue and to solicit information from other
rehabilitators who have received burned birds or bats, in order to
prevent future injuries and deaths.
This Red-Tailed Hawk (RTHA)
came in with a right wing burn, and we received another
from the same landfill the next day with the left wing burned.
Singed Feather Close-up
Typically closed landfills are a low
traffic area, so it is believed only a low percentage of burned raptors
are rescued. It is believed most die due to starvation or predation.
Because the US Fish and Wildlife Service has no statistics on the issue,
a national effort towards remediation is not expected at this time.
The author has contacted several prominent
rehabilitators who are aware of the issue and have also received raptors
burned by landfill methane burners. One center indicated they had
received red-tailed hawks (RTHA), American kestrels (AMKE), great-horned
owls (GHOW), and red-shouldered hawks (RSHA); all apparent methane
The actual size and scope of the problem
is not known at this time. Further it is unknown if the problem is
greater in certain geographical areas or if only certain types of
methane burners or landfill types are more prone to the problem. We are
in need data and facts.
The standard protocol is to allow
naturally occurring molting. It is generally understood that because of
the risk of severe feather follicle damage predator species should not
have feathers plucked to accelerate new feather growth. Severe follicle
damage could result in permanent loss of the follicle 3. This
means if you receive a raptor that molted last month you may have it 11
months before it re-grows the feathers and can be released. In the cases
we have seen the author feels the damaged feather quantity too high for
Other burn sources
“Oil and gas
production facilities that utilize what are called ‘heater treaters’
which are used to make and transfer/apply heat to the natural gas that
is produced from production wells. In this situation dead birds have
been found inside the equipment --- it is believed that the birds enter
through the stack and other openings on a heater-treater and they likely
die because they cannot fly out or they are asphyxiated.”
It is hoped that we can get some
remediation implemented to prevent or at least lessen occurrences of
these burn injuries. Current suggestions are:
Deny perching by use of stainless
steel bird spikes (polycarbonate would burn/melt) and implementing
alternative perching attached to the stack.
Deny perching by use of stainless
steel bird spikes and implementing alternative perching away from
the stack, e.g. a telephone pole, taller than the stack.
Stack covers (various designs) that
would reduce perching and prevent possible fly-over burning
above represents installation of stainless steel bird spikes on rim of
burner and affixing a lowered perch rail below the flame area.
Also illustrated, above, is an alternative perch placed on
telephone poles that is both higher and away from the burner stack.
The author is specifically requesting
from the rehabilitation community, the following information:
Quantity, species and date/time frame
of intake of burned raptors, as well as how long you had to keep it
and any procedure (e.g. imped three primary feathers)
Whether you have received any burned
raptors that had to be euthanized, and the ratio of released,
non-releasable, and euthanized.
Geographic area of landfill, and
distance the rehabilitator is from the landfill.
Photographs of burned birds (or bats).
It will be easier to convince with hard evidence.
Photographs of a variety of landfill
methane burners, and if you believe the particular burner
photographed has injured a bird or bat. Of particular interest would
be of a dusk photograph of a burner actually flaming.
Photographs and/or description of any
remediation observed or implemented, and if it is felt to be
successful. Also any problems with a particular remediation
Any other information that will lead
to a better understanding of the issue, as well as useful statistics
or remediation ideas.
Other industrial sources of burned
raptors you have treated.
The author solicits e-mails to be sent to:
Please include your complete contact
information for follow-up.
K (2006) Clean-Up Your Trash, Charity Guide
E. Heimlich Ohio State University Fact Sheet – Landfill
Carolina Raptor Center et al:
USFWS Regional Biologist