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Oregon airport uses dog to chase birds off runway

May 10, 2009 at 12:10 a.m.


NORTH BEND, Ore. (AP) — A small airport on the Oregon coast is taking care of its bird problems with a border collie named Filly.

Southwest Oregon Regional Airport sends the dog after the pesky Canada geese that can pose a hazard to aviation.

"She's chased flocks of geese into the water," said Bob Hood, the airport's wildlife manager. "She's really good at her job and she really likes her job."

Filly is the third dog — officially called wildlife management canine — that Hood has trained to work at the airport.

Hood and the operations crew had used propane cannons, cracker shells, whistles and horns as scare tactics to shoo away intruders before a commercial flight struck some geese.

"There was damage to the nose of the aircraft. They smashed into the radar dome," Hood said. "I remember seeing a goose was inside the dome."

Nobody was hurt, but Hood said it prompted the airport executive director to ask him to look into the U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife management program.

Hood started training with the American Society of Canine Trainers in 1994 and by 1997 had become a certified trainer.

Since then he has trained dogs for the North Bend Police Department and Coos County Search&Rescue, as well as for law enforcement agencies in Florence and in Jackson County.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires most airports to have a wildlife management program in place to be certified for commercial passenger traffic.

Once a year, Hood attends a training seminar given by the USDA, U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife or the FAA. He meets people from all over the country with different types of animals they're dealing with.

"I met a guy in Florida where there were alligator strikes," Hood said.

The FAA and USDA have reported that from 1990 to 2003, there have been more than 50,000 aircraft damaged by wildlife strikes, with 124 people injured and eight killed.

Since the airport joined the wildlife management program, the number of wildlife strikes in North Bend dropped from several annually to one or two a year, Hood said.

"The birds are so dangerous to airplanes, you have to do something," he said.

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Information from: The World, http://www.theworldlink.com

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