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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Wildlife hazard management at airports: Fifteen years of growth and progress for Wildlife Services


In the 1990s, major concurrent expansions occurred with commercial aviation and populations of bird and other wildlife species considered hazardous to aviation. These parallel trends resulted in increased numbers of wildlife collisions with aircraft (wildlife strikes) that now cost USA civil and military aviation more than $500 million annually and pose a threat to flight crews and passengers. The USDA Wildlife Services (WS) program responded to these increased conflicts by developing an integrated, science-based program of technical and operational assistance for the aviation industry to reduce wildlife hazards at civil and military airports. This WS Airports Program was based on a foundation of 3 initiatives. The first was Memoranda of Understanding developed in 1989-1990 between WS, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the Department of Defense (DoD) which state that the FAA, certificated airports, or DoD facilities may request assistance from WS to reduce wildlife hazards to aviation. A second initiative was an interagency agreement between FAA and WS in place since 1991 that charged WS to research new methods to reduce strikes and to develop a National Wildlife Strike Database. A third initiative was an Airports Training Course developed by WS that has certified 247 WS biologists and technicians to work on airports, 1996-2003. As a result of these initiatives, WS provided assistance in assessing hazards and reducing risks posed by wildlife at 565 airports in 2003 compared to only 42 in 1990. Accomplishments of the WS Airports Program since 1990 are discussed through case studies. These studies include: 1) the development of the 57,000-record National Wildlife Strike Database, which provides a scientific foundation for WS work at airports; 2) applied research projects resulting in new information and techniques for reducing strikes; and 3) integrated wildlife damage management programs at airports that have resulted in significant reductions in wildlife strikes.

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