Safety for all focus of airport wildlife management program

hawk1The people at Paine Field Airport take seriously the safety of passengers and aircraft, as well as the many birds that live in or migrate through the region, not to mention deer, coyotes and other mammals that call this area home.

For decades, Snohomish County has contracted the services of U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services personnel to assist in minimizing collisions involving wildlife and aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Administration recognizes Wildlife Services as experts managing wildlife-related risks at airports. With the assistance of Wildlife Services Biologists Matt Stevens and Dylan Taylor, Paine Field has created and implemented a Wildlife Hazard Management Plan, which has been approved by the FAA and included in the airport's certification manual. The plan identifies the challenges presented by different species and outlines solutions for maintaining a safe flying environment.

The plan is complex and multi-faceted, but a key strategy is minimizing habitat that could be attractive to wildlife, such as ponds and wetlands, grassy fields, and forested areas. In particular, the idea is to limit the presence of desirable roosting and feeding areas for waterfowl and gulls, the birds that are most hazardous to operating aircraft. In addition, trained airport staff and USDA personnel on a daily basis use wildlife harassment and abatement techniques. For example, the grass seed used at the airfield is a variety known to be less-attractive to wild birds.

Wildlife Services also traps and relocates raptors that make their way to Paine Field. Hawks and other predatory birds can be particularly challenging as they tend to soar and hunt at elevations less than 500 feet above ground level, where most documented bird strikes occur. Red-tailed hawks, American kestrels, Cooper's hawks, and other birds of prey have been live trapped and relocated to safer areas, at least 35 miles away from the airport.

The FAA continues to encourage and support the airport’s approach to managing wildlife-related hazards. Meanwhile, Paine Field staff are constantly researching and implementing new techniques, demonstrating their dedication to providing the safest possible flying environment.