Gull Shooting at Worcester Airport: Discussion

Central Mass Bird Update homepage.

This is a compilation of responses to Mark Lynch's report of Dec 2, 2012, that airport personnel were observed shooting gulls.

12/2/12 -- Original post
We were birding at the front lot of the Worcester Airport Sunday afternoon when we noticed the security car across the tarmack stop and the police man got out and started shooting. Now we thought he was firing off an air gun (and maybe he was) but then we noticed him firing all over, even down, and at a flock of Horned Larks. Then we witnessed as he picked up two dead gulls and the other guy in the car got out a plastic bag and they put the gulls in the bag. Are they shooting gulls there? If not, what was going on? Does anyone know the policy of shooting at the airport? And firing at a flock of larks seems absurd. BTW: others people were there when we were and all agree it looked like they were shooting gulls.
(report from Mark Lynch).

12/6/12 --
In response to Mark's post "Gull Shooting at Worcester Airport", I can add this.  I was stationed at several Air Force Bases where bird strike/runway incursions were a serious concern.  The most common ways of eradicating birds were air canons, recorded bird calls (they sounded like screeching owls to me) or whistlers (imagine a large party popper).  The air canons would always fire in the morning before flight operations began.  I also witnessed nets, traps, dogs, and a Peregrine Falcon.  At Langley AFB, the raptors began tolerating the noise, I often saw them in the middle of the airfield regardless of the noise introduced, I wonder if they had a similar issue with the gulls at Worcester.
(from Randy Langer).

12/6/12 --
They have been using firing of ordnance for awhile at Worcester (which is no longer handling large commercial flights) this was different. They fired AT stuff and picked up dead birds.
(from Mark Lynch).

12/7/12 --
For many years, the Worcester Regional Airport has held a federal/state co-signed Migratory Bird Depredation Permit which authorizes designated employees of the airport and staff of USDA Wildlife Services to shoot a range of bird species that are deemed to be a safety hazard at the airport. Airport permits are the most liberal category of Migratory Bird Depredation Permits. Depredation permits are issued to authorize the lethal removal of otherwise protected birds that are believed to be a threat to public safety or health, that are causing damage to public or private property, or are harming state or federally-listed species. The Worcester Regional Airport permit authorizes up to 272 individuals of 13 bird species to be killed per year. This includes the most likely species to cause aircraft damage at Worcester, the Canada Goose, Herring Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, and Mallard. The permit also includes small species of flocking and/or grassland birds which in some circumstances can cause damage, such as Snow Bunting, Horned Lark, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, and Killdeer. The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and other stakeholders are often in disagreement over the levels of actual risk and the most effective ways of decreasing any risk created by these species.

In the most recent 12 month permit period, December 2011 through November 2012, 35 (of the possible 272) birds of 3 species (of the possible 13) were actually killed. This included 15 Ring-billed Gulls, 5 Canada Geese, and 15 Barn Swallows. Although we often debate the level of real threat posed by the smaller species and the most effective way to address that threat, it is very clear that the presence of gulls, geese, swans, and large ducks pose a real risk to aircraft and public safety when they occur at airports.

The numbers of birds authorized to be taken, and the number actually taken at Logan International Airport and other large airports along the East Coast are much higher than at Worcester, but most small airports don't generally kill any birds, and if they do it is restricted to geese and gulls.
(from Tom French -- Mass Fish & Wildlife, fide Mark Lynch)