There is little doubt that the rapidly increasing deer populations represent a serious threat to both General Aviation and Commercial Aircraft. It is currently estimated that there are over 26 million deer in the United States. Because of increasing urbanization and rapidly expanding deer populations, deer are adapting to human environments, especially around airports, where they often find food and shelter.
The best and most practical way of keeping deer and other wildlife off of airports is with fencing, which may be AIP-eligible. The need for the fencing should be confirmed first by a wildlife hazard assessment done by a wildlife biologist.
The wildlife hazard assessment will typically recommend the type/height of fence. Generally, we recommend a 10-foot chain link fence topped with 3 strands of barbed wire, and a 4-foot skirt attached to the bottom of the fence. The fence skirt should be buried at a 45 degree angle on the outside of the fence at least two feet into the ground to prevent animals from digging under the fence and to reduce the chance of washout. This fencing configuration is the most effective for keeping deer and other wildlife off an airport; It also greatly increases airport security.
All fencing must be properly maintained. The fence line right-of-way must be kept free of excess vegetation. The fence line should be patrolled at least daily, and any washouts, breaks or other holes in the fence repaired as soon as they are discovered. If deer are observed on or near the aircraft movement area, immediate action must be taken to remove them.
However, when installation of chain link fencing is not feasible due to cost or environmental impacts, other types of fencing may be installed. Cost alone is not an acceptable reason for rejecting the use of chain link fencing.
In some cases, electric fencing may offer a practical alternative to the use of chain link fencing. Recent improvements in fencing components and design have greatly increased the effectiveness and ease of installation of electric fences. Tests by the USDA's National Wildlife Research Center have shown that some 4 to 6-foot, 5 to 9-strand electric fence designs can be 99% effective in stopping deer. Installation of some of the new electric fences require neither specialized equipment nor training and can be accomplished by airport personnel.
In limited situations, using non-conductive, composite, frangible electric fence posts and fence conductors, it may be permissible to install an electric fence closer to the aircraft movement area than would normally be allowed with standard chain link fencing material. One drawback to electric fences is that they require extensive maintenance in order to keep vegetation and trees from reducing the electric fence's effectiveness.
Ed Cleary, Washington HQ
(includes editorial revisions by FAA Central Region) (Updated February 2011)
Wildlife can pose a significant hazard to aviation safety. The FAA maintains an Wildlife Strike Database that serves as a good resource for information regarding wildlife aircraft hazards. This database was established by the FAA in 1995 to help gain an understanding of this complex issue. The database currently contains about 43,000 reports of wildlife aircraft strikes. Hundreds of requests are received annually from airport and airline operators for wildlife aircraft strike information.
FAA Washington HQ
Transportation Research Board's (TRB) Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Report 32: Guidebook for Addressing Aircraft/Wildlife Hazards at General Aviation Airports explores wildlife challenges that airports may face and potential techniques and strategies for addressing them. The guidebook examines the different species that can be found at airports and specific information that may be helpful in identifying and controlling them, and the various wildlife attractants and best management practices that airport operators can employ to minimize wildlife activity at and around airports. The report also highlights wildlife control strategies and techniques that may be appropriate at general aviation airports and includes reviews how to develop a wildlife control program.
ACRP Report #32
Page Last Modified: 09/10/12 13:14 EDT
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