The management of wildlife on and near airports is not usually an easily solved problem. This management can be as diverse as habitat manipulation to use of predators to repelling wildlife to lethal control of wildlife. Types of wildlife associated with safety issues at airports include birds, mammals and reptiles. This section contains sources/references the reader may find useful in establishment of a personal management plan for their local airport.
Birds' make-up 97% of the reported strikes, mammals about 3% and reptiles less than 1%. (FAA) The large number of bird strikes has resulted in a major effort by United States and Canadian airports officials to find ways to handle this problem, including the establishment of a Bird Strike Committee.
Mammals are the most common animals other than birds which are associated with aircraft strikes. Mammal strikes are only a small per cent of the total recorded strikes, but strikes with large ungulates including deer are extremely dangerous. The number of white-tailed deer in the US has increased from 100,000 in 1900 to 30 million in 2019. From 1990 to 2019, 1,210 civil aircraft were involved with collisions with deer.
Improper landscaping can attract animals to the airport and create wildlife hazards, while proper landscaping can deter animals away. Some plants provide food or shelter for potentially hazardous wildlife and should be avoided, while other plants may repel wildlife. Habitat deterrence is an effort to create an environment around the airport that is unattractive to potentially hazardous animals.
Animals are attracted to areas that reflect their natural habitat and provide basic living needs such as food and water. By understanding and controlling possible animal habitats at the airport, wildlife strike risk can be reduced. For additional information on habitat modification or other procedures for controlling hazardous wildlife at airports, see FAA's Wildlife Hazardous Management at Airports (PDF, 3.86 MB).
Airport planning plays an important role in bird strike hazard reduction. Proper planning of an airport can help to recognize land uses on or near the airport site that can potentially attract wildlife. By controlling these land uses, bird strike hazard can be reduced.
From archival data, it has been found that some of the most hazardous wildlife to airport operations include:
Land uses that attract these species of wildlife include:
- Putrescible-waste disposal operations
- Wastewater treatment facilities
- Dredge spoil containment areas
Recognizing existing wildlife attractants, as well as mitigating the creation of new wildlife attractants on or near the airport will help to reduce the risk of wildlife strikes. For more information, see Wildlife Strike Resources.