Any gunshots heard in the vicinity of the Kenai Municipal Airport Tuesday night most likely were city employees thinning the resident sea gull population.
Kenai Municipal Airport Manager Rebecca Cronkhite said she decided removing a number of the pesky birds was required after they had acclimated to noisemakers the city has used to scare them off the runway. She said an Era Dash 8 was forced to abort its takeoff Tuesday morning because of sea gulls in its path.
Danny Purvis, Era's director of flight operations, said sea gulls are a danger to aircraft and could do some damage to the planes.
"If they are ingested into the intake of the engine, it could fail or reduce its power output," Purvis said.
He said the takeoff run of the Dash 8 is not very long, and there was plenty of runway left for the plane to come to a safe stop.
"Kenai is like every other airport where there is a big open field, because waterfowl like that," Purvis said.
He said Tuesday afternoon that he had heard of the city's plans to thin the sea gull flock and is supportive of it for the safety of the planes and passengers.
Cronkhite said the effort to reduce the number of sea gulls at the airport -- more than in recent years -- will be an ongoing process.
"Sometimes when you take a few birds, you can start hazing them again," she said. "Anything you do to scare them, they'll just become accustomed to when they see it's no danger to them."
Cronkhite said she and another city employee with firearms training will use 12-gauge shotguns with steel shot to take some of the birds.
The method Cronkhite has been using to haze, or scare, the sea gulls has been shooting firecrackers out of the shotgun. She said nobody has complained about the noise.
"We're also going to look at the habitat to see what brings them here," she said.
She said the birds have been congregating on the runway and pecking at the asphalt for some reason.
"We're going to work with a biologist to see what it is that's attracting them and how to get them to go somewhere else," she said.
She said she has been working on a solution to the problem for weeks and just received federal and state OK to shoot the sea gulls.
Cronkhite said the public has become more aware of the problem that birds pose to aircraft after a military jet crashed at Elmendorf Air Force Base a few years ago after an encounter with birds.
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