Rose, the Kenai Muncipal Airport hazing dog, has taken care of business so far.
This June the Kenai airport used the anti-bird dog 52 times to scare off 1,062 out of approximately 2,500 seagulls hazed. Airport manager Mary Bondurant said that the airport had to kill about another 100 gulls.
By comparison, last June the airport hazed a total of 392 birds, Bondurant said.
Bondurant said Rose will remain on staff until the main hazing period ends on Aug. 18. She said that the pilot program has gone well so far, but it's still in its testing stages. The airport will analyze the data after the dog has finished.
"She does an excellent job. She's very obedient," Bondurant said. "However she's only one dog and we have over 200 acres (of airport)."
Olivia Pfiefer, a high school student who handles the dog, wrote the proposal for the approximately $5,000 project as part of the Caring For The Kenai competition.
Airport maintenance worker Matt Landry said that the dog hazed its first sand hill crane recently. Pfiefer said that the sand hills are larger birds, but Rose manages to scare them off. Landry said that the number of sand hills will increase in the coming months and the number of seagulls will drop.
Landry said that lethal hazing is a last resort if the dog, vehicles and pyrotechnic rounds don't scare away the birds.
"We won't let an airplane land until we get the birds out of there," he said.
"If you have a dozen birds it's not a huge issue. You can usually get the birds off the runway." he said. "If it's 200, it's going to take awhile."
Landry said that Rose comes with him during his morning check of the runway. If there are no birds present, he said that he and Pfeifer bring the dog back to the office to do paper work. Then the dog accompanies him around the airport during regular rounds, then they check out the runway again.
"If there isn't much activity we play ball or take a walk or take her for a swim in the lake," the maintenance worker said. "She gets breaks just like anybody else."
Pfiefer said that the dips in the lake are training for the dog. Birds that swim in the lake near the airport often fly onto runway, she said.
"She's used to swimming in ponds on golf courses," the high school student said. "It's deeper and colder than what she's used to in California."
Rose is also available for duty at the Soldotna Municipal Airport. But Morgan Burdick, a Soldotna airport maintenance worker, said that his airport hasn't had occasion to call the dog on birds yet.
"It would be really fun just to watch that collie work," Burdick said.
The airport scared off 45 ducks, seven ravens, and "one lonely sand hill crane" and "euthanized a stubborn goose" this June, according to the maintenance worker.
He said that he fires pyrotechnic rounds from a 12-gauge shotgun to scare off the birds, but sometimes the avian squatters will recognize his car and drive off.
"The birds are smart though," he said. "They'll circle around two or three times and land again in a different spot, especially sand hill cranes."
Landry said that birds exhibit similar behavior at the airport in Kenai.
Tony Cella can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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