No more emus in Gulliver’s Cove -- owners blame wind turbines

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier jriley@digbycourier.ca
Published on November 25, 2013

The emus of Gulliver’s Cove are gone.

Davey VanTassel slaughtered the last of his emus on Monday, Nov. 25.

His wife Debi is heart broken.

“We don’t know what the future is for us here,” she said. “We know it ‘s not safe to have any animals here. Honestly, we’re just putting it in God’s hands and we’ll see.”

Towards the end she couldn’t bring herself to go out to the pens – when she talked about the emus, she got teary-eyed.

VanTassel wrote a letter last week that brought the big news organizations scurrying to Gulliver’s Cove to shoot video of the emus, of the VanTassels and of the windmills.

Nova Scotia Power has 20 1.5-megawatt turbines whirring away atop the ridge in Gulliver’s Cove the closest is 850 metres from the VanTassel’s home.

The by-laws of the Municipality of the District of Digby today restrict new wind turbines to at least 1,000 metres from any existing dwelling. These turbines were set up in 2010 before the by-law came into effect.

VanTassel’s letter said those windmills not only keep her and her husband Davey up at night, the stress of living under the windmills has been killing their emus.

“Due to the abuse we are experiencing from the industrial wind turbines our emus have suffered greatly,” wrote VanTassel on Nov. 13. “First with the installation of the test towers and the high pitch sounds emitting from them, we lost 26 of our 38 emus with no eggs laid. During the time the turbines were erected and the test towers were still in place; we lost five more emus leaving us eight emus.”

VanTassel believes the animals have been dieing from stress caused by noise from the wind turbines.

“Emus habits are to lay down together at dusk; males and females pick their mates and the others huddle together for sleep,” she says. “We noticed that our emus were not laying down, but running through the night.”

With the birds getting thinner, they contacted their feed company and tried adding more vitamins and fibre but they could not keep the birds’ weights up.

“The agitation from the turbines caused them to run and run night and day wearing them down to practically nothing. The young ones suffered the most from the effects of the infrasound emitting from the turbines.”

The VanTassels never managed to have any of the dead birds examined but say they put it down to fear based on their experience with the emus.

VanTassel says one time the birds escaped the pen because of intimidation by coyotes.

Most of the birds were recovered okay but one kept running from well-meaning neighbours on four-wheelers.

“It was dead when they found it,” said VanTassel. “All of the meat on that bird turned to jelly. And that’s just what our birds are like when they die now.”

VanTassel admits they can’t prove it’s the turbines.

“One thing we do know is that for the 18 years before the turbines we never had any problems with our birds, no unexplained deaths, no agitation they would lay down in the evening content and low us to sleep with their gentle drumming,” she says. “We had healthy, productive, and content emus.”

Paul Warren, Nova Scotia Power’s Manager for Hydro and Wind Energy and Robert Duran, the superintendent of Fundy Hydro visited the VanTassels on Thursdasy, Nov. 21.

“They said they were going to go and talk to their experts and get back to us,” said VanTassel. “I don’t know what about, I don’t know what they can do to make it safe for us to live here.”

VanTassel says in she can’t in good conscience sell their home and expect someone else to live this close to the wind turbines.

The emus were a hobby for the VanTassels – something to supplement Davey’s income from the fish plant and provide them with a bit of meat and oil for themselves.

They sold some meat and feathers and oil and they sold trinkets at a small stand out front.

Davey would blow out the infertile eggs and make decorations to sell.

For Debi, the birds became like pets – she and Davey enjoyed the interaction with people who came from all over to see the friendly and curious emus.

Watching them die has been hard and this fall, to top it all off, feeding the emus became more expensive and more difficult.

The feed company they used to deal with has changed their delivery route and packaging.

A truck used to drive to Gulliver’s and blow the feed into a storage bin. Now the VanTassels have to drive to Yarmouth to pick up the feed in 80-pound bags.

Davey, who has limited function with his left arm and leg, would have to climb a ladder with the bags on his shoulder and dump them into the pen.

“He could never do it,” said Debi.

The final straw came in early November when five more of the younger emus died, leaving the VanTassels with just 13.

They sold seven to the last emu farmer in Nova Scotia, a man in Martock, near Windsor.

The last six emus Davey has slaughtered for their meat and oil.

Davey says he might try blueberries.

jriley@digbycourier.ca