Airport bird issues on tap

Posted: Monday, April 20, 2009

Whether or not a Kenai freshman's idea is selected to win this year's Caring for the Kenai competition, the idea has caught the attention of city leaders.

For a number of years, the Kenai Municipal Airport, like airports and military air bases everywhere, has been dealing with the problem of birds getting in the way of departing and landing aircraft. The birds, mostly gulls in Kenai, like to rest at the end of the runway in the summer.

The city has tried numerous tactics to remove the hazard, including lighting firecrackers, firing guns to scare the birds and even shooting them.

"Last summer, 841 birds were scared off," said Kenai Central High School student Olivia Pfeifer. "Forty-eight were shot."

Pfeifer's plan is for the city to hire a dog.

Not just any dog, her research has found a North Carolina firm that specializes in training border collies for the task.

Flyaway Farm and Kennels, based in Chadbourn, N.C., has extensive experience on both military and civilian airfields, providing "highly effective wildlife harassment featuring professionally trained border collies and expert guidance on habitat management, avian behavior and ecology," according to the firm's Web site.

"The birds see the dogs as a constant threat," Pfeifer told the Kenai City Council on Wednesday.

"The dogs do not harm any birds, just scare them," she said, adding the Augusta, Ga., airport has used trained border collies successfully for eight years.

Pfeifer suggested Kenai lease a trained border collie for the four summer months next year at a cost of $3,500 "as a pilot program."

She also suggested the city hire her as a summer hire to work as the dog's handler for $2,400.

"Kenai would be the first in the state to have a trained dog," Pfeifer said.

Flyaway Farm also offers its trained dogs for sale, and the city could lease a dog with an option to buy, but Pfeifer said the bird problem in Kenai typically only is present during the summer.

Flyaway Farm boasts having more U.S. Air Force contracts than any other company, and says its full-service wildlife management programs include airfield wildlife hazard assessment, training for Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard personnel, BASH program reviews and analyses of flying routes in addition to having trained border collies for sale or lease.

Following Pfeifer's presentation to the council, Mayor Pat Porter said, "I think you have an excellent idea."

Pfeifer was to present her project to Caring for the Kenai judges Friday.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at

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