osprey nest sce&g rivertowne.jpg

An osprey pair is rebuilding on a utility pole in Mount Pleasant on Wednesday afternoon, March 7, 2018, after an SCE&G crew tore its nest down last week. Wade Spees/Staff

The ospreys are rebuilding their nest on a utility pole in Mount Pleasant as federal wildlife agents investigate a South Carolina Electric & Gas crew for removing it last week.

The company said it will leave them be — for now.

"In this particular case, we will allow the birds to rebuild the nest. We perform regular inspections of our facilities. If the nest impacts or threatens to impact the operation of the line in the future, it will need to be removed," Paul Fischer, an SCE&G spokesman, said Wednesday.

The birds "started rebuilding the day after the nest was taken down and I’ve noticed the osprey up on the post every day since," said Lauren Kube, a Rivertowne on the Wando resident who lives near the site.

She was one of a number of residents who protested the removal.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would not comment on what they called an active investigation or say generally what is or isn't allowed in a case like this.

Utilities can remove nests to protect their lines so long as the nests are not being used, according to wildlife officials. Disturbing an active nest is considered a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to $15,000.

Jim Elliott, the director of the Awendaw-based Center for Birds of Prey, said, technically, the new nest pilings could be removed until the birds actively nest. But given the public protests, it would have been shortsighted for the company to bring them down.

"It would be great if they put up a (nest) platform, which I suggested," he said.

Ospreys are huge eagle-like white birds with black markings on their wings. They are not an endangered species but are protected under the federal Migratory Species Act.

They are among the highest “nest fidelity” birds, or those determined to build in the particular spot they choose.

Last week, the osprey pair circled overhead as the crew removed the Rivertowne nest, Kube said. A Birds of Prey volunteer later inspected the site and found a broken egg on the ground, Elliott said.

The SCE&G decision Wednesday was a sharp contrast to its attempt to discourage ospreys from building a nest on a utility pole in 2015. That nest was just across the Wando River from the Rivertowne nest.

In 2015, company workers repeatedly removed nest pilings and placed an orange traffic cone atop the pole near the Highway 41 bridge over the river to keep the birds from re-establishing a nest removed to make way for bridge construction.

The ospreys eventually gave up the attempt. The company built a platform nest nearby.

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Reach Bo Petersen Reporter at Facebook, @bopete on Twitter or 1-843-937-5744.

Science and environment reporter. Author of Washing Our Hands in the Clouds.

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