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
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)