Nuisance Wildlife Research


11.11.2020 - Author: Philip J. Nichols

Wildlife Services is a branch of the Department of Agriculture, located in Fort Collins, Colorado. On it’s fifty acre campus it conducts research, maintains a research library along with a tissue bank, and provides direct service to those experiencing significant wildlife problems on a federal level. Wildlife Services is distancing itself from its old image, when it was known as “Animal Damage Control” (ADC.) The name changed in 1997.

The ADC program was the main source for providing predator control to cattle and sheep ranches throughout vast areas of the west. The agency is changing priorities to more emphasis on research with less emphasis on direct involvement. Direct involvement is still required in some situations. One instance was the military disaster at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska (1995.) A flock of Canada geese collided with an E-3 AWACS (Early Warning and Control) aircraft. The plane crashed on takeoff killing all twenty four service men and women on board. This disaster prompted a study by Wildlife Services.

Thousands of geese were fitted with marked collars then translocated 60 kilometers. All of the birds returned within thirty days. Hazing methods were studied with poor results, the geese learned to ignore non-lethal scare methods. They found that where human life is at stake, lethal control is the only effective solution.

Other bird-aircraft strike hazards were studied at the Naval Air Station, North Island, San Diego, California. There were twenty seven airstrikes documented in 1997. Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia recorded one hundred and two air strikes. Studies revealed that only thirty percent were being reported by pilots with more than half happening during landing. The study identified the kinds of birds involved and patterns involving seasonal migration and the times when birds and flocks of birds were most likely to cross runways.

Study methods included painting (color coded) eight hundred seagulls, and tracking of twelve of them fitted with satellite transmitting radio collars.Wildlife Services biologists observed bird flock movements and roosting habits until there was enough data to form a working plan.

Here is a brief list of on-going research and programs at WS: - The national rabies management program.

  • Feral swine management program.
  • Invasive species management, burmese python, argentine tegus. - Wildlife genetic research.
  • Vulture research.
  • Sheep collar for shocking coyotes.
  • Tranquilizing traps.
  • Repelling porcupines that chew on cabins and trees.
  • Laboratory modelling of deer, coyote and geese.
  • Chemosensory research. Sparky, a Jack Russel terrier has been trained to intercept brown tree snakes hitchhiking in cargo holds.
  • Chemosensory research: dogs trained to sniff out birds infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza. This research has led to dogs being able to smell the covid virus, and are being used to screen people entering concerts, sporting events, etc.
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