Statewide USDA/APHIS-Wildlife Services airport wildlife management training held at KOSU
With fields of pristine grass and often boasting the largest green space in an urban area, airports can appear to be an oasis for a variety of wildlife. Unfortunately, airports are very dangerous places for fauna: collisions with aircraft can be fatal to all involved.
“Striking a four-pound bird at 200 mph exerts over six tons of force,” said Jeff Pelc, district supervisor, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – Wildlife Services. Pelc and his team of certified wildlife biologists recently held a statewide airport wildlife management training hosted by The Ohio State University Airport (KOSU).
Twelve airports were represented at the Federal Aviation Administration-required training aimed at instructing operations staff how to maintain airfields safe for pilots and free from dangerous interactions with wildlife. Attendees included personnel from FAA Part 139-certificated airports as well as those designated as general aviation.
Ohio State Airport Director Adam Wolf commented on the importance of wildlife hazard training. “Having qualified personnel on an airport to mitigate wildlife activity and attractants is critical,” he said. “Aircraft are traveling at very high speeds and are not designed to withstand impacts from an object the size of a mammal or large bird.”
The in-depth training highlighted best practices in the usage of pyrotechnics, non-lethal tools to manage and disperse wildlife. These combustible or explosive manufactured articles are designed to produce audible or visual effects, and are fired from handheld pistol launchers or 12-gauge shotguns. Over 50 airport operations personnel from across the state received guided instruction on pyrotechnics implementation. Other methods of animal control were discussed, such as habitat modifications to make airports unattractive to wildlife and wildlife relocation away from the airport.
Each airport has unique wildlife populations in their vicinities which change seasonally and with migration patterns. Staff monitor and prepare for the best ways to manage potential species influx in advance. Through a cooperative service agreement, The Ohio State University Airport works with USDA Wildlife Biologist Brian Cross to lead these efforts locally. His initiatives – including placing decoy birds on the airfield and strategic use of pyrotechnics – have resulted in a significant reduction in dangerous interactions between wildlife and aircraft.
“Having a full-time wildlife biologist at the airport has significantly reduced the incidences of birds and other wildlife being struck by aircraft at KOSU,” commented Wolf. “His position greatly enhances the safety of our students and others traveling through the facility, as well as helps protect wildlife populations.”
KOSU is among hundreds of airports improved by USDA Wildlife Services annually. According to their website, the unit trained more than 5,097 employees at 890 airports and airbases in wildlife hazards awareness, identification and control methods in fiscal year 2017.
by Holly Henley, communications specialist