Kenai airport guns after pesky gulls

Posted: Thursday, June 22, 2000

KENAI (AP) -- Sea gulls are risking their lives if they visit the Kenai Municipal Airport these days.

City employees are shooting the birds to thin the growing population of resident gulls.

Taking out a number of the pesky birds is necessary because they've acclimated to noisemakers the city has used to scare them off the runway, said airport manager Rebecca Cronkhite. An Era Dash 8 was forced to abort its takeoff Tuesday morning because of sea gulls in its path, she said.

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 told the Peninsula Clarion.

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 she has been working on a solution to the problem for weeks and just received federal and state OK to take the sea gulls.

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