More than 30 DTE Energy employees donated their time and skills this week at the Howell Nature Center in Livingston County.

DTE volunteers used a DTE bucket truck to install new protective netting above the eagle habitat at the Howell Nature Center.

Tuesday’s six-hour “DTE Day of Caring” replaced netting at the center’s eagle habitat, which houses two bald eagles with permanent wing injuries. The netting protects the eagles from predators because they can no longer fly.

“This is an exceptionally tall exhibit – over 30 feet high – with netting suspended by cables attached to telephone poles,” said Dana DeBenham, the center’s director of wildlife and education.

The retired poles were donated by DTE along with poles used to construct the Center’s Wild Wonders Wildlife Park.

Volunteers used a DTE bucket truck to replace more than 150 feet of containment netting and cross beams at the eagle exhibit and to install a bat house nearby. Affixed to a utility pole 45 feet off the ground, it’s hoped the bat house will attract little brown or big brown bats to control mosquitoes.  

Thomas Baucus, a Howell-based DTE supervisor and 33-year employee, organized the annual effort.

“A bucket truck and crew is beyond budget for the center to hire, so we provided a unique asset and skill set,” said Baucus.

Volunteers installed solar lighting in three buildings, removed a dead pine tree from the eagle habitat, trimmed an overgrown oak, and replaced a fence. They also installed 40 feet of new split rail fence, spread wood chips on paths and facilitated new gutter installation on the DTE Raptor Center, which was established and endowed by the DTE Energy Foundation in 2004.

Xena, a great horned owl, lives at the DTE Raptor Center.

The DTE Raptor Education Center has a classroom for live wildlife presentations. Flight pens in the room house two peregrine falcons, a turkey vulture, a red-tailed hawk, a great horned owl and a bald eagle – all permanently injured.

“The Howell Nature Center is close to the hearts of people who live and work in this area,” said Baucus. “Virtually all of my fellow DTE employees in Howell volunteer there.”

KiIi is one of three bald eagles at the Howell Nature Center.

Last year, a DTE team repainted the DTE Raptor Education Center, installed drains to mitigate flooding, repaired fencing and painted classrooms and benches. 

“The work accomplished by our DTE volunteers is absolutely invaluable,” said DeBenham. “Our eagle habitat has needed repairs but we lacked the equipment and manpower to work so high off the ground. We are so very grateful for the DTE volunteers who return every year to help us maintain, beautify and improve the facilities critical to our mission of wildlife rehabilitation and education.”

DTE volunteers installing new split-rail fencing at the Center.

Get involved at the Howell Nature Center by donating your time, talent or treasure.