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Eagles at risk

Wind turbine strikes have killed at least four wedge-tailed eagles at Tasmania’s Musselroe Wind Farm since May, but a well-known wildlife biologist believes the actual figure could be much higher.

Nick Mooney has a specific research interest in the bird of prey and said he believed only about one-third of bird deaths caused by turbine strikes across the state were recorded.

Wedge-tailed eagles are listed as an endangered species in Tasmania, with fewer than 1000 birds estimated in the wild.

‘‘[Some] of those eagles were found by accident, so it just shows you that the monitoring is essentially inadequate,’’ Mr Mooney said.

‘‘Searching is limited to very close to the turbines, so really something that just drops immediately is likely to be found but not necessarily, because a carcass can be dragged off and eaten by something or dragged under a bush and just not noticed.

‘‘The monitoring is not constant – it’s infrequent enough that birds can be missed.’’

Tasmania has three major wind farms: two at Woolnorth in the North-West and one at Musselroe Bay in the North-East.

The Musselroe Wind Farm is operated by Woolnorth Wind Farm Holdings in a joint venture between Shenhua Clean Energy Holdings and Hydro Tasmania.

Woolnorth Wind Farm Holdings general manager Stephen Ross said an eagle offset program had been completed prior to the farm being fully commissioned.

‘‘All reporting requirements associated with the recent eagle mortalities have been completed and the approved environmental management plans continue to be implemented at Musselroe Wind Farm,’’ Mr Ross said.

The Environmental Protection Authority requires wind farm operators to monitor and report bird and bat injuries and mortalities within 24 hours of the discovery.

No injured eagles have been reported at any wind farm in the past 12 months, and no eagle mortalities have been reported at Woolnorth over the past year.

An EPA spokeswoman said the authority was satisfied that the procedures for detecting dead or injured birds were as thorough as was reasonably practicable.