Friday, December 1, 2017

Letter: Someone should be fired for snowy owl shooting at Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH)

The shooting of the snowy owl at the airport should be met with the firing of the individual or individuals who exercised such poor judgement. This law was put in place for the "Direct Threat To Human Safety" at commercial airports.

The airports that have regularly used this law are JFK and New Jersey, both of which have thousands of flights arriving and departing daily. To take a small airport like Oshkosh has and hang your hat on killing this bird that could have been caught in minutes and transported to a safer area defies logic.

The law that was in place for true commercial airports and not a "Bugtussle" airport like we have here. Watch management circle the wagons and "excuse their way out of this". 

Jon Gafner

Original article  ➤

Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH)  issues statement regarding snowy owl shooting

OSHKOSH - The Wittman Regional Airport on Friday afternoon issued a statement regarding a snowy owl that was legally shot at the airport this week.

The statement came after USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin reported Thursday on the shooting of the bird, which was near a runway. The airport has gotten blowback on social media since the story became public. 

Its full statement read:

"On Monday of this week, airport crews made efforts to remove a snowy owl that had  been reported within close proximity to Runway 9/27. An arriving pilot had notified  the air traffic control tower of the owl’s location.

Upon notification from tower personnel, members of the airport maintenance crew investigated the report and discovered the owl close to a runway designator sign on Runway 9/27. The owl’s location was inside the designated runway safety area, within 50 feet of the runway edge.

Wittman Regional Airport possesses a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to lethally remove, if necessary for the safety of the airport and its users, a variety of animal species, including Snow Owls, from airport property.

Several attempts, using various approved methods, were made to frighten the owl into moving off the airport. The owl did not respond to any of those methods. Because of the close proximity to the runway and the potential for an aircraft to be damaged by the owl if it flew into the path of an aircraft, the decision was made to lethally take it. That decision was not taken lightly, nor is it the preferred method of removal.

Airport personnel make every effort to preserve the lives of all animals that encroach upon airport operational surfaces; lethal removal methods are not the primary means of removal, but occasionally have to be employed when preferred methods of scaring animals are unsuccessful. Among the more recent efforts at Wittman Airport was the installation of a taller fence around portions of the airport property to help decrease opportunities for deer or other animals to enter airport property and potentially cause hazardous situations. Another measure has been to plant grasses that are unappealing to wildlife. However, sometimes these efforts fail and the animal must be removed by other means.

While bird strikes are rare, the damage can be catastrophic resulting in the loss of both aircraft and even human life. According to a report from the FAA, “Wildlife Strikes to Civil Aircraft in the United States 1990-2015” ( there were a total of 164,444 bird strikes in the US during this time period. 13,558 of these strikes resulted in damage or severe damage to the aircraft. Of those bird strikes, 2,585 were reported as owls, resulting in an average of 129 incidents with owls annually. One hundred ninety-nine (199) of these owl strikes were specifically caused by Snow Owls, averaging 8 strikes each year. Damage to aircraft from bird strikes has occurred to aircraft at Wittman Airport in past years.

The airport has worked with trapping agencies in the past, but in the last such instance, airport staff were required to monitor the bird twenty-four hours each day until the trappers arrived three days later. Fortunately, that owl was in a location on the airport that did not pose an immediate potential conflict with aircraft operations.

This event is certainly unfortunate and the outcome is not what anyone working at Wittman desired; however, Wittman Airport, like all airports in the world, must take extraordinary measures on occasion to ensure the safety of aircraft and their occupants."

Original article can be found here ➤

OSHKOSH (WLUK) -- The shooting of a snowy owl at the Oshkosh airport is raising concerns about why the bird was killed.

The Wittman Regional Airport director says it was a matter of safety.

But advocates for birds say the situation could have been handled better.

It's been three days since a snowy owl was shot and killed at Wittman Regional Airport, but Winnebago Audubon Society President Janet Wissink says she is still upset.

"It's emotional, you know. Bird lovers love snowy owls," said Janet Wissink, Winnebago Audubon Society President.

The big white bird was shot on Tuesday. Airport Director Peter Moll says a pilot spotted the bird in the grass less than 50 feet off the east-west runway.

"The owl did not want to move," said Peter Moll, Wittman Regional Airport Director.

Moll says the maintenance crew often uses a cap gun to scare birds but the truck didn't have one. They did have a shotgun.

"We did try several warning shots into the air, not near it, to maybe scare it, tried the horn on the truck too, tried that. It just wouldn't move. It's not our first choice, we always want to do the best thing to get any animal, or any bird off the airport first without having to kill it. Unfortunately because the safety issues, we had to do it this way," said Moll.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service issues airports permits to shoot animals which are deemed a safety hazard. The snowy owl is on the list.

"It's kind of a last-step thing to lethally remove a bird. Non-lethal techniques are tried, and if those aren't effective, then some lethal take may be required for safety purposes," said Tom Cooper, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Program Chief.

But Janet Wissink still wonders why. She says local bird groups could trap problem owls and relocated them elsewhere.

"Maybe we can work together to help remedy that. If we have certain people available," she said.

"We'll reach out to those organizations that have offered training and definitely talk with them about what they can do to help us," said Moll.

Moll says in his 12 years on the job, this is the first time a snowy owl has been shot at the airport.

Story and video ➤

Protected snowy owl legally shot at Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH)

OSHKOSH - A snowy owl sitting near a runway was fatally shot at Wittman Regional Airport Tuesday, a legally-permitted move that has left some perplexed.

Pilot Doug Cooper said he and his co-pilot were taxiing into the airport Tuesday when they saw a snowy owl land on a taxiway sign. Thinking it was cool, they mentioned it to the control tower.

But after they stopped in the hangar and were putting the plane away they heard gunshots, he said. The other pilot said he saw a man shoot the owl, Cooper told USA TODAY 

The snowy owl is on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's list of protected species under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

But airport Director Peter Moll said the airport has a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that allows them to take steps to remove such birds, including lethal measures — which he said doesn't happen often. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Permits Chief Larry A. Harrison confirmed that Wittman has a permit that authorizes the airport to remove or kill about a dozen species of birds, including snowy owls. 

Airports are granted such permits specific to aviation safety to protect the public, he said.

Moll said a maintenance crew's efforts to make the bird fly off from its perch near the runway were unsuccessful, and they decided not to try to trap it because of time constraints and its proximity to the runway. They felt the bird was an aviation hazard.

"It was done in the interest of safety," he said. "We did try to scare it away from the runway but the bird didn’t respond, and we have to use measures we think are necessary for the safety of pilots and the airport.” 

Janet Wissink, president of the Winnebago Audubon Society, wasn't surprised to hear that a snowy owl wasn't easily startled. They don't tend to be that afraid of humans, she said.

Still, she was upset when she found out the owl had been killed.

"It upset me very much because I just pictured this beautiful white bird as I’ve seen them in the past, just sitting so regally," she said. "They’ll sit for hours on a fence post or on a clod of dirt out in the field and they’re gorgeous birds."

She hopes this incident starts a conversation about how to avoid such deaths in the future, including bringing in a group that's trained to trap and relocate.

"Let's talk about this and figure out a better way," she said.

Story and comments ➤