Friday, August 16, 2013

Coyote fear factor used to scare animals from airport runways: Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International (KAZO), Michigan

KALAMAZOO, MI — The snarling, crouching coyotes seen lurking about the Kalamazoo Battle Creek International Airport this summer still startle the employees— even though they know the animals are only decoys, relocated by operations staff every day or two to keep small animals and large birds away from the airport runways.

"Every time I drive out there I swear I'm seeing a (real) coyote," said Jay Waalkes, airport operations supervisor. 

 Walks said an employee with an interest in wildlife came up with the suggestion and the airport decided to give it a try, with four plastic animals posed in different positions.

"One is snarling, one is kind of squatting, and we also hung stuff on them that blows in the wind to create (the illusion of) movement," he said.

It may sound like a humorous undertaking, but the pretend predators do a serious job, keeping the runways clear, he said.

"You don't want any foreign materials on the runways, and that includes birds and wildlife," Waalkes said. "If planes hit it it can damage the aircraft. You definitely wouldn't want to kick anything up into the engine intake." 

Canada geese have at times "created safety problems" in Kalamazoo and Detroit airports, a February, 2013 report from the U.S. Geological Survey. In 2011, a snowy owl took up residence at the airport, delaying a few flights until it could be shooed out of the way, no easy task.

A 10-foot high fence around airport property has deterred deer, said Cliff Moshoginis, airport director.  He said the new coyote pack seems to be doing the trick with smaller animals and birds that could get through or over the fencing. 

"I've seen some at other airports that at are just paper silhouettes, " Moshoginis said.

Lifesized decoys such as the Kalamazoo airport uses,  more commonly used by hunters to attract the animals, are available in a range of prices from sporting good stores and feature such extras as free-moving furry tails and poseable frames.

Borgess at Woodbridge Hills uses rubber predators,too -- a fox and a coyote-- to deter geese from entering the handicapped parking lot, said Khim Peoples, site manager at Borgess Woodbridge Hills campus. "They have been very effective, " she said.

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