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Vero Beach Airport to undertake wildlife plan to manage birds, hogs

VERO BEACH — The Vero Beach Airport enterprise fund will need to pay $3,750 of the cost of a $150,000 study required by the Federal Aviation Administration to catalog and plan for the presence of wildlife in and around airport runways and taxiways.

“It’s going to be man’s best attempt to manage wildlife,” said Airport Director Eric Menger.

Menger said the plan would be two-fold. “The first part would be a wildlife hazard assessment and that has to be done by an FAA-approved biologist,” Menger said. “The second part would be now that we know what we have, what do we do to manage it.”

The Vero Beach City Council voted Tuesday night to accept a $3,750 state grant to pay for 2.5 percent of the costs. The federal government will pick up 95 percent and the city’s portion represents 2.5 percent.

Menger said the development of a wildlife management plan is being mandated for the airport for safety. Councilwoman Tracy Carroll said she had seen news reports of wildlife — especially birds — causing planes to crash or inflicting major damage to aircraft.

“Lately we have had an influx of feral hogs,” Menger said. “We have to take care of that because these hogs are dangerous.”

Menger said users of the airport have not suffered fatalities due to wildlife-related accidents, but that there have been instances where birds have crashed into planes in midflight. He said pilots were able to still land the planes, but with bloody and cracked windshields.

Specifically for birds, the airport staff has a low-tech tool already in its toolbox.

“We have a cannon that fires blanks that we can move around the airport,” Menger said. “We fire it, it fires blanks, and the birds go away and come right back.”

No timeline was given for the study, but Menger said he would need to seek proposals from consultants qualified to do the job.

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