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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Managing Raptor-Aircraft Collisions on a Grand Scale: Summary of a Wildlife Services Raptor Relocation Program

  • Author(s): Schafer, Laurence M.
  • Washburn, Brian E.
  • et al.

Bird-aircraft collisions (bird strikes) pose a serious safety risk to aircraft. Raptors (i.e., hawks and owls) are one of the most frequently struck guild of birds within North America. Integrated wildlife damage management programs combine a variety of non-lethal and lethal management tools to reduce the presence and duration of raptors at airports. Live-capture and translocation away from an airport is a commonly used method to reduce the risk of raptor-aircraft collisions. In 2007, USDA APHIS Wildlife Services (WS) developed an airport program-specific plastic leg band (i.e., black with yellow alpha-numerics) for use in operational raptor management activities by the agency at airports. As part of this nation-wide effort, WS airport biologists live-captured, marked with auxiliary markers (i.e., project-specific leg band), and conducted over 3,900 raptor translocations from airports and military bases located in 16 states during January 2008-May, 2015. This represents a large portion of the raptors that were managed using this non-lethal method by WS during these years. Not unexpectedly, raptor translocation efforts and the raptor species managed varied among geographic regions/states and at specific airport locations due to a variety of logistical factors. Fifteen different raptor species were marked and translocated during this effort. Red-tailed hawks, American kestrels, and great horned owls accounted for 58%, 14%, and 6% of marked/translocated birds, respectively. Although research is needed to better understand and increase the efficacy of such management efforts, this non-lethal method of reducing the presence of individual raptors at airports will be an important component of future wildlife damage mitigation programs.

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