What is your position at YVR and how long have you worked at the airport?
Wildlife Program Specialist, started on January 2, 2013.
Can you explain what the YVR Wildlife Management Program is?
YVR’s Wildlife Management Program was developed to reduce the risk of wildlife and aircraft colliding. At YVR, wildlife, especially birds, can damage aircraft when they collide. Damage from a bird strike can be severe.
How do you reduce the risk of wildlife and aircraft colliding?
To reduce the risk of a strike, we manage habitats on the airfield to make them less attractive for birds. By knowing how animals fulfill these requirements, we can change the environment on the airfield and make it less attractive to wildlife.
And when that doesn’t work?
When we are unable to modify an airfield habitat to make it less attractive for birds, we have to be more persuasive. To do this we have a variety of noise-making pyrotechnics that startle birds. We always vary the use of these devices because birds become used to them very quickly. Some people might wonder how a bird could get used to loud noises, but I guess they haven’t seen the hawks that perch next to runway while heavy jets take off next to them. We also use “predator stimulants.” These are dogs and even predatory birds that induce the fear of a predator. We have successfully flown falcons to scare away shorebirds, and we have a trained Bald Eagle coming in this winter to chase geese. We have two long-term Border Collies who work airside, and we are in the process of training a new puppy to join the wildlife team (see extremely cute video below).
For some birds that do not respond to any kind of stimulant, like raptors (e.g. hawks and owls), we have a trap and release program. We capture the raptors, mark them, and then translocate them to suitable habitat up the Fraser valley. Doing this protects the birds from getting struck and keeps aircraft operations safe.
What is something that is unique about YVR’s Wildlife Management Program?
Our location on the Fraser River Delta makes managing wildlife very challenging and unique. There are so many migratory birds that use the area because the Fraser delta is the largest on the Pacific Coast. As a result, we need a very thoughtful approach to managing wildlife. I am proud that our program has such a strong focus on conservation. YVR takes conservation seriously and we work hard to manage birds, including those that are listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (such as the Short-eared Owl and the Barn Swallow).
What is your favourite aspect of your job?
I love the combination of managing animal behavior and the action of working in Airside Ops; there is always something going on and I never have time to get bored.
How did you get in to Wildlife Management? Any special pets growing up?
I actually wanted to be a fighter pilot in the RCAF growing up. But I was always interested in ecology and wildlife, so ended up studying Agro-ecology (agriculture + ecology) in University. After graduating, I began a graduate degree studying Snow Geese and how they use farm fields in Delta (just south of YVR on the Fraser Delta). As it turns out, that study was funded by YVR.
Are you a dog/bird/horse whisperer to any extent?
I can be very convincing to dogs, but that’s not so tough. The last time I was on a horse I almost got killed (horse pictured above).
Why is it important for an effective and innovative Wildlife Management Program to be in place at the airport?
We have a vast diversity of wildlife species that present hazards to aviation safety, and no single method will reduce that risk. Being aware of animal’s ecology is critical to doing our job well, and doing our job well means passengers and air crew can fly safely.
What’s coming up in the near future for the Wildlife Management Program? Any new editions or initiatives in the next few months?
The program is always developing, and we constantly add new techniques to the mix. We have recently added a Bald Eagle to our “flight line” of trained raptors (flown airside to scare other birds away) and we are adding a new puppy to the dog team this year. The puppy is currently in training for the next two years before it will actively be deployed.
Meet the new potential members of the Wildlife Management Team:
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