U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version

Fall 2011


Human–Wildlife Interactions 5(2):198–203, Fall 2011


Aircraft collisions with birds and other wildlife (wildlife strikes) pose increasing safety and financial concerns to the aviation industry worldwide. Recent events such as the ditching of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River have renewed public interest in risks to aircraft posed by wildlife (Marra et al. 2009). However, wildlife biologists and aviation personnel have been aware of these issues for decades (Solman 1973, Blokpoel 1976). Since the inception of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) National Wildlife Strike Database in 1990, 99,411 reported wildlife strikes to airplanes have resulted in at least $1.2 billion annually in losses (direct and indirect) to civil aviation worldwide and >$625 million annually in the United States, as well as >200 human lives lost (Allan 2002, Dolbeer et al. 2010).

Wildlife-strike mitigation at airports involves reducing the likelihood that a strike occurs and reducing the level of damage if a strike does happen. Historically, wildlife management at airports has occurred at small spatial scales relative to overall animal space use. Wildlife damage management strategies (e.g., harassment and deterrents) usually occur within the confines of airport property. However, the effectiveness of these techniques depends in part on the surrounding landscape and ecology of species involved. For example, the Cessna Citation 1 crash in Oklahoma in 2008 that killed 5 people was caused by American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) likely flying to or from a lake <2 km from the crash site (Dove et al. 2009, National Transportation Safety Board 2009). York et al. (2000) reported that site-specific return rates of Canada geese (Branta canadensis) to a U.S. Air Force base after harassment were contingent on the distance from the airport to their resting site.