CIAA discusses deterring wildlife from islands’ airports

Michelle Powell, safety and emergency response coordinator, demonstrates a smoke gun. - Photo: Jewel Levy

The general public was invited to the Cayman Islands Airports Authority general meeting on Monday to discuss measures used to alleviate hazardous wildlife around the islands’ airports.

The CIAA is aiming to raise awareness not only with their airport partners but also with the neighboring communities around the airports. At the meeting, Andrew McLaughlin, CIAA chief of safety, shared a video that illustrated the wildlife reporting process and emphasized the importance of keeping birds and other wildlife away from the airport.

While cattle egrets have been the biggest headache for the Airports Authority, Mr. McLaughlin said green iguanas, night herons, chickens, pigeons, land crabs and blackbirds were hazards as well.

“The fight to deter wildlife at Cayman’s airports is a problem that we will have forever,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

“They will never leave us. There is the migration factor … we can’t just make it so they don’t want to come on the airport,” he added.

Mr. McLaughlin discussed bird behavior patterns, habitat and other wildlife entering the airport perimeters from surrounding areas with attendees.

Many measures had been put in place to remove wildlife from the airport such as air cannons, repellents, props, and barriers. Right now, he said, the airports authority was looking into a laser system, which he said should work very well at night.

He said over the years the airport has taken on many measures, such as enlisting the help of St. Matthew’s University, which did a study on wildlife patterns and how to make the airport less attractive to animals.

Water, Mr. McLaughlin said, was the strongest attractant and staff are already working to fill ponds and get rid of standing water around the airport. He said the ponds will be eliminated by 2019, but there will still be wildlife attracted to the airport.

Mr. McLaughlin also got feedback from attendees, who had the opportunity to ask questions about wildlife control measures and deterrent practices. One resident who lives near the airport objected to the use of air cannons, saying the noise from them was so loud, it sounded like they were inside the house.

“We are making sure the cannon is not used unless it is absolutely necessary,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

Attendees made suggestions such as implementing a friendly building design so that birds would not fly into the reflecting glass, or hiring a bird handler.

“Each year we review what we do to see if it is being effective or if it’s not. We are constantly looking at different ways of dealing with it,” Mr. McLaughlin said.