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Gowen Airfield Operations employing hands-on Wildlife Management

GOWEN FIELD, Boise, Idaho -- "Pyrotechnics, which sound like gunfire, may be used during this time to harass wildlife." And it is for their own good. The Joint Force Headquarters at Gowen Field has approved the occasional use of noise and visual means to encourage birds to fly, nest, and live away from the flight paths and aircraft traffic patterns around Gowen Field and the Boise Air Terminal.

The 124th Airfield Management Office ensures the safety of air crews operating from Gowen Field by monitoring all airfield conditions. They are now authorized to use some additional measures that their counterparts across the runway at the Boise Airport have found successful.

"This is a prime time of the year to pursue this as many species are looking for places to nest," said SSgt Chase Newman. "It is much better for the birds to find a home off base where they can successfully raise young," he said.

Gowen Field and its immediate surrounding base properties are especially appealing to birds in the springtime. The base offers water ponds, manicured lawns, and a virtual lack of predators. The birds need a bit of help from Airfield Management to steer clear of the airfield environment which means certain death for them and potential injury to air crew and damage to aircraft.

"The threat is real," said MSgt Michael Deasy, who manages this enhanced seasonal activity of the Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard (BASH) program. "Just the other day, a single pilot experienced two bird strikes in the same day. He flew a different aircraft on each of two separate sorties, and he suffered a bird strike on each."

Currently MSgt Deasy, SSgt Newman, and others managing Gowen airfield operations employ "bangers" (that sound like a shotgun), and "screamers" (that sound like a large eagle or hawk swooping in for a kill), to startle birds who are making poor habitat choices that are detrimental to both the wildlife and to air operations. Their small pistol-like devise fires both types of extremely loud rounds that motivate birds to leave the area of Gowen flying operations. "Birds love the running track and the ponds on base," said MSgt Deasy, "and they are fond of some areas near our third runway."

"We have to assess the airfield conditions daily and report this to the supervisor of flying. This time of year we find an increased need to implement the harassment of birds that pose a bird strike threat" SSgt Newman.

The Airfield Operations staff has been keeping its eyes on waterfowl such as ducks, geese and cranes, on smaller birds that present danger when in large flocks, and even on birds of prey such as eagle and hawks. They have special permission to harass, but not kill the eagles.