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December 1, 2011                                                                                                                     

Death Pipes - Open Pipes Kill Wildlife

PRINTABLE FLYERS: Shut Your Pipes Kern River Preserve Flyer  SSRS - Open Pipes    Monofilament Flyer


Audubon Land Stewardship in the Kern River Valley & Southern Sierra Nevada

Open Top Vent and Marker Pipes Kill Birds


Kern River Preserve Habitat Restoration

Restoration News

Monofilament Hurts: Help Wildlife and People


Kern River Valley Invasive Species Information

Giant Cane, Arundo donax

Perennial Pepperweed, Lepidium latifolium

Purple loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria

Salt Cedar, Tamarix ramossisima


Volunteer Workdays

Cowboy Cleanup at the Sprague Ranch

Kern County Fire Department Helps Audubon and Fish & Game with Invasive Weeds

Kern Valley Pride Day

Kern Valley Pride Day

This six-inch pipe contained seven-feet of compacted bird carcasses – Audubon Kern River Preserve & Southern Sierra Research Station staff collected 231 skulls from this pipe alone.


Millions of birds and other wildlife are killed in innocent-looking death traps worldwide.
     • Any open top vertical pipe can be a death trap.
     • This problem has been highlighted recently by discoveries of dead birds and other wildlife in PVC mining claim markers across the western United States.
     • At least 45 species of birds have been identified along with several other vertebrate species.
     • Not limited to nesting birds but birds in all seasons investigating pipes for curiosity, food and/or nesting.
     • This problem is nearly invisible – death pipes of all kinds kill birds and leave no trace.

Although attention has been focused on PVC mining claim markers the problem is much more widespread. Death pipes can be… any size pipe or material: pipe fence posts, irrigation vents, plumbing vents on buildings and motor homes – residential included – EVERY home and commercial building in the US may have at least one death pipe!

Large bones (most likely being eaten by a large bird of prey perching on the pipe), unidentified species of bird bones, a dead fence lizard and a dead Northern Flicker were found in this pipe.

Close-up photo of the gross wildlife cemetery that exists in these pipes.

Wildlife Affected

• Mortality study by Nevada Dept. of Wildlife 1986-2007 reported by Lahontan Audubon Society, found 1500 dead birds in 8700 pipes.
• Santa Monica Bay Audubon member – Keith Axelson 2007-2008 found 38 bird carcasses entombed in 18 pipes in Kern County, California.
• Nevada State Department of Wildlife biologist, Christy Klinger, removed 195 markers containing 740 dead birds, including 31 in one pipe.
• Audubon Kern River Preserve staff removed a single agricultural vent pipe on neighboring land containing 231 bird skulls.

Cavity nesting Ash-throated Flycatchers are frequent victims of open pipes.

Mountain Bluebird carcasses have been identified as frequent victims of death pipes.

Simple solutions for the individual.

Look around your home for uncovered vent pipes, chain link fence posts, or any other upright open pipe. The most simple and permanent solution is to remove unnecessary posts and vent pipes.

The next few solutions require action to cover the open top pipe. With sign posts, fence posts, and mining claim markers filling them with dry sand, dirt or gravel and if you are concerned with the pipe rusting then put a metal or cement cap on top. Why do both? Well, over the life of a pipe caps can weather and fall off.

Vent and dryer pipes on buildings and motor homes. Vent pipes are important to vent noxious gases and to help liquid to flow. These cannot be covered completely, but you can cover them to prevent wildlife from entering. Even pipes as little as 1” have trapped animals, a solution is to use specially designed vent pipe caps. This will allow unimpeded air flow and keep animals out of harm’s way. The photo of the building vent screened with hardware wire is a temporary solution until our vent pipe caps are delivered. Raptors and other birds have died when they caught their talons in wire, so wire covers should not be considered anything but temporary.

An added benefit in covering building vents is preventing debris and wind from entering your home and keeps heat from escaping during cold winter months.

Spread the word to your friends and family and become a leader in problem solvers!
Click here to download a pdf flyer to handout to friends and neighbors.


RV's are also a source of open pipes. The problem of dead wildlife is hidden in the holding tanks.

There are several types of pipe covers available commercially.

temporary solution only - raptors can get talons caught in wire

Well secured caps solve the problem but must be inspected to make sure they have not rotted or been knocked off.

Creating a chicken wire cap covered in cement is a pretty permanent solution but care must be taken to inspect all pipes at least annually to make sure these remain intact.

Covering vent pipes is good for wildlife and saves homeowners from expensive plumbing calls. No wildlife, rain, leaves or other debris enters the system helping to keep pipes free of clogs.

Pipes that are covered help keep home heating bills down as well as they leak less warm air.

Wildlife Documented from Skeletal Remains in dismantled pipes/markers.

  • American Kestrel

  • Western Screech-Owl

  • Burrowing Owl

  • Northern Saw-whet Owl

  • Common Nighthawk

  • Common Poorwill

  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker

  • Northern Flicker

  • Western Wood-Pewee

  • Say's Phoebe

  • Ash-throated Flycatcher

  • Loggerhead Shrike

  • Northern Shrike

  • Horned Lark

  • Western Scrub-Jay

  • Pinyon Jay

  • Clark's Nutcracker

  • Violet-green Swallow

  • Tree Swallow

  • Mountain Chickadee

  • Juniper Titmouse

  • Bushtit

  • Red-breasted Nuthatch

  • Pygmy Nuthatch

  • Rock Wren

  • Canyon Wren

  • House Wren

  • Cactus Wren

  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet

  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

  • Western Bluebird

  • Mountain Bluebird

  • Townsend's Solitaire

  • Northern Mockingbird

  • Sage Thrasher

  • European Starling

  • Black-throated Gray Warbler

  • Common Yellowthroat

  • Green-tailed Towhee

  • Brewer's Sparrow

  • Black-throated Sparrow

  • Brown-headed Cowbird

  • Pine Siskin

  • House Finch


  • Side-blotched Lizard

  • Western Whiptail Lizard

  • Western Fence Lizard

  • Desert Spiny Lizard


  • Mice (Peromyscus)

  • Desert Cottontail

  • Chipmunk (Tamias)

Taken together with all other impacts to birds and wildlife, death pipes are taking their toll. We can work together to reduce cumulative impacts in very simple ways to make it so birds remain a part of our lives and that our descendants hundreds of years into the future get to enjoy an amazing diversity of life as well.

Audubon Kern River Preserve works to protect and restore habitat in the Southern Sierra Nevada especially in Kern County, California. If you would like to volunteer on one of our many projects, please contact:

Sean Rowe

Fax: (760) 378-2531
Land Steward
Audubon Kern River Preserve


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