Sunday, August 13, 2017

Wildlife biologist at Tulsa International Airport (KTUL) plays vital role in maintaining safety of aircraft and animals




While making a routine loop around the perimeter of the Tulsa International Airport's airfield, Clayton Faidley spots a small hawk.

He brings the truck to a halt, grabs a pair of protective ear muffs, a small pyrotechnic launcher and shoots the screaming bullet into the air which scares the bird out of airport skies and back into safety.

For Faidley, the aiport's wildlife biologist, harassing birds into safety accounts for almost 100 percent of his job's activity. 

Originally from rural Virginia, Faidley spent his childhood fishing, playing in creeks and practically living outdoors. While he has always loved wildlife and he obtained a bachelors and masters degrees in biological sciences, he didn't know biologists were a staple job at airports until a few years ago.

He thought the job sounded "really interesting" and went to work for a few airports in Baltimore, Maryland.

"I thought 'that’s really cool' and I liked planes so it was like a perfect storm," he said. 

On any given day Faidley may have the opportunity to scare away geese, take a lost dog to a shelter, trap a hawk and set it on a new course or unfortunately get sprayed by a skunk...among many other animal encounters. 

The Tulsa airport has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to mammals near or around the airfield because they can cause a fair amount of damage. Since airports started reporting bird strikes in the early 90s, it has been found that 26 strikes occur nationally per day and because strikes aren't required to be reported over half aren't.

Additionally, Faidley said, 245 aircraft's have been lost or damaged due to wildlife interference and more than 200 people have died.

"It's definitely something airports need to be aware of and take precautionary measures against," he said. 

Anytime the airport operations department can't shoo an animal off the premises, Faidley comes out to assist. He travels to airports across the country about twice a month to train employees on how to deal with wildlife on airport property.

His training fulfills their yearly required wildlife training per Federal Aviation Administration regulation.  

Faidley is also in charge of maintaining wildlife safety at the Jones Riverside Airport, but doesn't have to interfere as much at the airport because it is smaller and airplanes take off more often, keeping the wildlife at bay. 

Moderate to larger sized airports almost always have at least one wildlife biologist on staff, Faidley said. Loomacres Wildlife Management, the company Faidley works for, has employees stationed in airports located in Ohio, New York, England and Guam.

However, just like Faidley felt when he found out about the job, people still give him an "amused, confused look" when he tells them what he does for a living. 

We asked him some questions to learn more about his unique career.

What's different about working with wildlife in an airport setting?

The last wildlife jobs I've had, it’s been capturing, measuring and then releasing and in has been in the woods, but here you have to be much more aware of who sees you, what’s around, and there’s big safety issues as well.

What animals do you like and don't like dealing with?

I like dealing with crows. They are pretty smart because you can do a little harassment and they’ll leave and they’ll stay gone for a while. I don’t like waterfowl (ducks, geese, etc.) one, because they are a hazard to aircraft, two because if they get up in the air they will circle a few times and they may land again.

When you say you "harass" birds away from the airfield, what all does that entail?

Harassment could just be clapping your hands, even just driving at them with the truck scares them pretty good. I have "pyro" launches as well. There’s one that’s a screamer and there’s another one that’s called a bird bomb. We have shell crackers — it looks like a shotgun shell and you can shoot it 300 to 400 feet and then it makes a boom and those work really well scaring birds.  

What are the steps to capturing a hawk, if you have to?


In the case of a kestral, I will set a Bal-Chatri trap where the hawks are, drive down a little further and try to scare them a little bit closer to the trap so they’ll see it, land on it, try to get the bait inside the trap and then after a few minutes of working around these nooses that are on top, it will wrap around their toe. You need to take them between 20 to 50 miles away — you want to get them on a new north, south migration line. 

Original article and photo gallery ➤ http://www.tulsaworld.com

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