Wildlife Biologists Protect Military, Wildlife

By William H. Clay, Deputy Administrator, USDA APHIS Wildlife Services

Image Credit: USDA

It’s something biologists know is a common, but regrettable, occurrence for birds. On Sept. 16 a U.S. Air Force airman witnessed a bird hit a building on a military base in Southwest Asia. Several responding airmen identified the stressed and disoriented bird as a falcon and summoned the USDA Wildlife Services’ (WS) airport wildlife biologist who is on temporary deployment at the base providing airport wildlife hazard management.

Image Credit: USDA

Image Credit: US Air Force

Since November 2009, WS airport biologists have been assisting U.S. military and coalition forces with BASH (Bird/wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard) management at bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other SW Asia locations. Each biologist, ranging in age from 24 to 63, has volunteered for these four-month deployments, sometimes experiencing the on-going conflict close and personal. All expressed a commitment to using their wildlife professional skills to assist U.S. military personnel. And all have contributed to decreased aircraft/wildlife strike rates and damage to aircraft at each base where they have worked.

Dave Tresham, the biologist who normally leads the USDA WS team at the Sitka AK Airport, caught and provided immediate relief to the Saker falcon, which he recognized as being outfitted as a falconry bird. He then transferred it to the USAF base veterinarian who cared for the bird until its owner was identified and custody could be transferred.

Image Credit: USDA

Image Credit: US Air Force

Everyone involved was surprised to learn the bird was the falcon of the President of Kuwait, whose staff expressed appreciation for the safe return.

Not every day brings this level of interest, but for almost three dozen USDA airport biologists who were deployed, each day provided a challenge as they applied their wildlife skills to unique species they don’t normally encounter on U.S. airports and to other special challenges.

Wildlife Services is a Strategic Partner of TWS.