The Genesis of CTOM

Central to my worldview as a naturalist and a citizen scientist is balance, and my desire for balance sensitizes me to the needs of all sentient beings. My concerns for human needs do not eclipse the needs of wildlife. On the contrary, wildlife conservation is intrinsic to the needs of humankind. Native wildlife supports the ecosystems that we depend on for clean air and water. Wildlife is part of a nation’s heritage. When it became clear that DDT from chemical waste was causing a sharp decline in the bald eagle population, the Bald Eagle Protection Act was signed into law. Many such laws have been enacted over the past century in the interest of preserving our natural heritage. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (1918), for example, protects migratory bird species in the US, including ospreys and their nests.

In 2012, several osprey-aircraft strikes occurred at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. SEA-TAC raptor biologist Bud Anderson, began investigating ways to eliminate osprey-aircraft strikes. After many hours of observations and much research, Anderson concluded that ospreys nesting on cell towers near the SEA-TAC runways increased the likelihood of aircraft collisions during the breeding season.

In an effort to deter ospreys from nesting on nearby cell towers, Anderson developed and patented the Osprey Nest Excluder (ONE), an elegant solution to a thorny problem. The installation of ONEs on the runway cell towers in the fall of 2012 was a game-changer, successfully eliminating the osprey-aircraft strike problem at SEA-TAC. This solution did not go unnoticed by the telecommunications industry, and the phone began to ring. My late husband Tom Maechtle founded Cell Tower Osprey Management (CTOM) to assist Anderson with those calls.

As an avian biologist, Tom spent his adult life studying the life cycles of birds in the field. Later, when the demands of family required his presence, he transitioned from field researcher to environmental consultant, blending his knowledge of birds with industry goals and the belief that humans and wildlife can successfully co-exist. He was a lion in his field and a force for good.

Through his development of CTOM, Tom discovered that cell towers were multiplying across the U.S. to accommodate the growing wireless telecommunication industry. During this same period, osprey populations increased, and so did their need for suitable nesting structures. The growing number of cell towers sited near waterways (ideal osprey habitat) conveniently provided ospreys with new structures on which to perch. The panoramic views provided opportunities for hunting and protection from ground predators, and so tower-nesting naturally appealed to ospreys. Because ospreys returned year after year to the same nest site, Tom knew any young raised on tower-nests would select towers for nesting when they entered the breeding population. This would in turn increase osprey tower-nesting exponentially as well as the telecom industry’s challenges to maintaining service-reliability at those sites.

Most telecom work on cell towers hosting active osprey nests is restricted and typically requires state or federal authorization to make repairs for service-impacting outages, equipment optimization maintenance, or equipment upgrades. The industry estimates 10% of the 120,000 cell tower sites in the U.S. host nests and based on data collected by CTOM, we calculate as many as 6000 (~50%) of those 12,000 tower-nests are built and used by ospreys. The struggle to manage daily operations at towers hosting nesting ospreys is real, and Tom recognized an opportunity to blend best management practices for safe and legal access with proactive efforts to deter tower-nesting by installing ONEs at suitable sites.

Sadly, Tom’s untimely death due to pancreatic cancer shortly after founding CTOM left the company mission to me. With the support of Anderson, and many other talented scientists and researchers I am privileged to know, I picked up the torch. I continue to champion my beloved husband’s vision of a highly specialized avian consulting company working on behalf of birds and the telecom industry. CTOM balances our need for communication with the needs of wild birds.

Next Blog: Innovative Solutions for Safely Managing Service Reliability at Telecom Sites Hosting Nests.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

About the Author: Kathy Maechtle

Sr. Avian Outreach Specialist Kathy Maechtle is the principal and owner of Cell Tower Osprey Management (CTOM). Maechtle specializes in avian conservation, providing industry and other stakeholders with technical assistance to understand wildlife regulations, apply scientific principles and sound management practices using evidence-based solutions for their avian challenges.

Latest Posts

Go to Top