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On Approach with David Bradbeer - Wildlife Program Specialist

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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5 Comments

  • Cathy wrote on Oct 18 2013 AT 7:01 PM

    It's great to hear about the thoughtful way the YVR wildlife management program is responding to the problems involved with living on an estuary and major migration route. I've often wondered how you keep the birds from colliding with the many planes. Great to see that it is with concern for the wildlife involved!
  • Chris Sewell wrote on Dec 10 2013 AT 3:44 PM

    Would someone from the wildlife program please contact me via email.  I have a few questions I'd like to ask.  Please and thank you

    Chris Sewell
    csewellbc@gmail.com
  • Michael J. Wagner wrote on Mar 31 2014 AT 7:48 AM

    Crow in the Graham Clark Atrium.

    I work with Curbside Operations and know about the crow and its refusal to leave.  While working with the cruise ship buses four years ago at the SIRT Building I observed one of the then long-term parking bus drivers regularly feed the birds.  The gulls and crows vigorously competed for the Cheezies he was scattering.  Whether is was just competition for food or competition for a particularly tasty food I cannot say. 

    I realize that this is anecdotal evidence.  But the hypothesis "crows love cheezies" may be worth testing.  If you test this hypothesis you may have to spotlight the cheezies as the GC Atrium is rather dim.

    And if this doesn't work--what alternatives are left?  I am reminded of the Duke of Wellington's advice about the problem of sparrows for Queen Victoria's opening ceremony of the great Crystal Palace exposition of 1850--Sparrow Hawks!


  • Marion wrote on Apr 04 2014 AT 2:58 PM

    Intelligent grass management around airports is THE #1 way to DETER Canada geese. 

    1)  So why did YVR build a green park at the airport to attract them?  I was appalled to read YVR deliberately built a park at the airport.  Ignoring a birdstrike experts about grass resulted in the 1995 US Airforce plane crash in Alaska.  

    "In July 1995 DeFusco gave a similar briefing to officials at Elmendorf Air Force Base outside Anchorage, Alaska.
    Elmendorf had a notorious Canada geese problem. Migrating flocks liked to rest and feed on the grass surrounding the base's runways.  "You've got to watch the runway grass carefully, and do everything in your power to harass that first migrating bird away from here," DeFusco told
    Elmendorf officials. "If he lands and feeds, that sends a signal to the rest of the flock. One bird will draw dozens and then hundreds of others.

    When DeFusco delivered a plan for an aggressive bird management program, the officials put a few suggestions into action
    BUT IGNORED most of the recommendations. Two months later, on September 22, an Air Force AWACS communication plane struck 25 Canada geese during takeoff. The birds knocked out the two left engines, sending the
    plane out of control. It crashed in heavy woods outside of Anchorage, destroying the plane and killing all 24 crew members aboard."
    http://mag.audubon.org/articles/birds/making-airspace-birds-and-planes?page=show


    2)  Did you use Kiwi grass in that park? 

    "New Zealand scientists are taking a new kind of grass to the global
    market, a grass which promises to reduce bird-strikes at airports and
    potentially save the aviation industry millions of dollars a year...It's been trialled in New Zealand airports since 2010, and bird numbers have reduced by 70 to 90 percent.
    Read more: http://www.3news.co.nz/Kiwi-grass-reduces-bird-strikes-worldwide/tabid/1160/articleID/291276/Default.aspx#ixzz2xxOaxWQ5

    3)  Does YVR have avian radars?

    4)  What is the aviation industry itself doing to make planes safer?   My latest research is it's not...their newer engines are actually referred to as 'bird scoops'....this is not really acceptable.   They have to do better than that.  
  • YVRAirport wrote on Apr 15 2014 AT 4:26 PM

    Hi Marion, thanks for your comments.

    Regarding grass management, we agree that it is key component to wildlife management. In fact, we have a Grass Management Plan that works to reduce the risk of several kinds of hazardous birds, not just Canada Geese. We balance the need to manage grass that is not attractive to Canada Geese with the need to manage small mammals to decrease
    the attraction for hawks, owls and herons.

    Larry Berg Flight Path Park has been present for approximately 20 years (it was
    refurbished and re-named in 2013) and our experience is that the park does not
    increase risk to aviation from wildlife. That being said, we constantly monitor
    – in fact, we have 24/7 patrols, more than any other airport in Canada
    –wildlife on the airfield. Safety is our #1 priority.
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