Power lines might be scaring wild animals away. According to a new study, these animals can see the frighteningly bright, flashing ultraviolet pulses produced by the lines. The UV light is caused by electricity ionizing the air around the cables.
While these flickers are invisible to the human eye, birds, insects and at least 40 different mammal species have eyes which are sensitive to UV light. Cattle, hedgehogs, dogs, cats, bats, red pandas, okapi and reindeer are just a few of the species being affected.
"There are hundreds of examples of animals avoiding power lines," study researcher Dr. Nicolas Tyler told The Guardian.
Until now, it was assumed that the animals were avoiding those areas because trees had been cut down to accommodate the power lines, leaving them susceptible to danger.
"Now we know that, not only do these clear-cut corridors mean exposure to predators," added Tyler. "[But] at the same time, there is this damn thing flashing at you."
Electric utility companies already monitor power lines with UV cameras to look for flashes that reveal conduction problems. The flashes probably look something like what is seen in the video below, except brighter because the cameras only record a very narrow range of UV.
It would be too expensive to bury all power cables, but there may be ways to cover them with non-conducting shields so the animals don't keep getting spooked.