Nevada’s hills have a tragic secret.
Nestled among the sagebrush, wind and sky, millions of PVC pipe posts stand upright in the rocky dirt as enduring white sentries marking decades of prospectors’ mine claim boundaries.
Inside many of these hollow posts lay the corpses of birds that become trapped in the polyvinyl coffins.
“They’re cavity nesters,” Bristlecone Audubon Society conservation chairman Pete Bradley said of the vulnerable species. “They’re used to going into dark holes.”
But the cheap, enduring mine claim markers are anything but safe havens for wildlife. Whether to escape a late winter storm on their migration north or to find safe havens for nesting, Bradley said, birds pop into these 4-inch diameter pipes and are trapped. Unlike a rough hole in a tree, the pipes’ slick, unnatural walls offer no grip to climb out, and the tight space offers no room for birds to spread their wings and fly to freedom.