Toxin in Navy study not for runways here

Published 4:51 pm Monday, March 26, 2007

By Staff
Avitrol included just in case, biologist says, By NIKIE MAYO News Editor
Avitrol, a toxicant suggested for getting rid of birds at the Navy’s preferred outlying landing field site, has never been used around a runway in North Carolina, according to a biologist with the United States Department of Agriculture.
“It’s used out west and because of that, we had to include it in the report as an option,” biologist John Weller said in a recent interview with the Daily News.
Asked why that explanation wasn’t included in the technical report that goes with the Navy’s latest OLF impact study, Weller said, “That’s a good question. … It should have been.”
Weller is part of the team of about 30 consultants the Navy has on hand for information sessions that precede the ongoing public hearings in the region. Those hearings give residents the chance to speak about the Navy’s latest — and court-ordered — environmental study related to an OLF in eastern North Carolina.
“When it comes to managing hazardous wildlife, we have many techniques,” Weller said. “Removal is at the bottom of the list and Avitrol is at the bottom of that list.”
Toxicants, specifically Avitrol and DRC-1339, are listed as options for bird removal under the “standard techniques” portion of a management plan that accompanies the latest Navy study. “The use of controlled toxicants should be investigated and employed on an as-needed basis,” reads the plan.
But Weller contends that is the last resort among last resorts for managing birds at the Navy’s preferred OLF site on the border of Washington and Beaufort counties.
The hierarchical plan for getting rid of unwanted birds is defined by four adjectives: Modify, exclude, harass and remove, according to Weller.
In the first — and simplest — step, biologists “modify the attractants” that bring birds to a particular area, Weller said. “You wouldn’t want a cornfield in the middle of an airfield,” he said.
Exclusion could be achieved by building perimeter fences and harassment might include pyrotechnics, he said. If those all fail, biologists look at removal options, which include toxicants.
Weller takes issue with those toxicants being termed as “poison.”
Weller’s boss, USDA wildlife biologist Michael Begier, said the same thing in an interview with the Daily News earlier this month.
Begier said it’s “highly unlikely” the substances would be used at Site C, the Navy’s proposed pilot-practice pad. If toxins were used, they would not be used on waterfowl, but on other birds in the area, he said.
Avitrol is a repellent for crows, pigeons, European starlings and gulls. It has to be administered by someone who is licensed to do so, said Gaylon Ambrose, Beaufort County’s agriculture extension agent.
Weller said the toxicants, if necessary, will be used in a small space for a short amount of time and that a biologist would monitor the area to ensure the “target” birds are the ones ingesting it.