Crowd in Petaluma protests nets causing birds to die

April 26, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Demonstrators in Petaluma took to the streets at rush hour on Friday to call attention to a construction project they say is threatening a federally protected bird.

Caltrans made adjustments to several nets it installed beneath an overpass on Highway 101 in South Petaluma to protect the swallows, but demonstrators say those nets continue to kill birds.

"Take down the nets! Take down the nets!" chanted a crowd with signs of protest.

There were about 20 people that gathered near the 101 freeway overpass to demonstrate against a series of nets installed under the bridges.

"I don't see why birds need to keep dying. They should just take the nets down and figure out what's the next step," said Novato resident Maggie Rufo.

As we first reported earlier this month, the nets are supposed to keep migratory swallows from nesting under the bridges. Caltrans has since acknowledged some birds were getting tangled and dying, so they've made adjustments.

"The adjustments haven't been effective. Birds have continued to die and become entangled in the netting," said Veronica Bowers from Native Songbird Care and Conservation.

According to Caltrans, workers have adjusted two nets to prevent birds from getting trapped. And they're working closely with state and federal Fish and Wildlife authorities to fix any other problems.

Most evenings these birds return to these bridges to try and build their homes because it's still the height of their nesting season and demonstrators tell us some of those birds are still getting caught in the nets.

We noticed at least one bird caught in the netting tonight, demonstrators say a different material should have been used on this project.

"It would be plastic sheeting adhered flush to the surface of the structure and basically it just prevents the mud from the swallows' nests from adhering, it slips right off over time," said Bowers.

Tonight a biologist from Caltrans was on site to monitor the birds.


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