PVC mining markers, now banned, are slowly killing wildlife in Nevada.
PVC pipes were used for decades by miners to stake off their sites. The bright white made them easily seen from a distance and, being lightweight, were easy to pack around. They became outlawed throughout the state in 1993, but that didn’t stop their use. Hundreds of thousands are now left abandoned and causing the slow death of many birds, reptiles, and rodents in the Nevadan desert.
Animals drop inside the upright tubes, most of which are only four inches wide, and cannot fly or climb back out due to the smooth, slick sides. They are left to slowly starve or die of dehydration.
The species that is suffering the most deaths is the mountain bluebird that like to make their nests in cavities. They estimate the pipes have killed hundreds of thousands of them. Not gone unnoticed, the mountain bluebird is also Nevada’s state bird.
In 2011, after many efforts to get miners to clean up the pipes, Nevada made it legal for anyone who spots the tubes to pull them from the ground regardless of their location. Last year the Department of Wildlife’s marker removal campaign, the Bluebird Project, removed roughly 32,000 pipes and recovered nearly 11,000 dead birds.
Thanks to individuals and volunteer groups who have made a concentrated effort to remove the pipes, most of them are gone from southern Nevada. They estimate it could take decades to make a real dent in the issue, especially farther north where unfortunately most of the bluebirds live.