SAFB Say Egrets Are Hindering Air Traffic Safety

    They're back.
    The same birds who invaded the Harrison Apartments in Wichita Falls back in spring 2010 are once again roosting in the city.
    Officials say the birds pose a major threat to air traffic safety.
    George Woodward, spokesman for Sheppard Air Force Base, says, "The problem is that they fly from their roosting area to their feeding grounds and cross the airfield and the flight paths both of the military and the commercial aviation that goes out of Sheppard."
    Since 2002, Sheppard Air Force Base planes have experienced 504 bird strikes, causing nearly $3-million in damage.
    Sheppard officials are asking the city to waive its pyrotechnics ordinance to help with the bird problem.
    John Burrus, transportation director for the city of Wichita Falls, says, "We try to use things like pyrotechnics and propane cannons, loud noises and such, to frighten them and get them to move out of these flight paths."
    If the ordinance is adopted, residents near Maurine St. and Loop 11 can expect to hear booming noises from time to time.
    Officials say it's the safest and least invasive way to make sure the birds don't get in the way of aircraft.
    "Basically what we're doing is making a lot of noise.  We're scaring the egrets out of their roosting cycle," Woodward says.
    "It's important for us to get in there and to encourage the birds to leave before they start nesting," Burrus says.
    Burrus says if the ordinance is adopted, the cannon shots would be fired around 7 to 9 in the mornings, and 6 to 9 in the evenings.
    He says if they get the egrets out now before they nest, it's unlikely they'll come back to the same spot.
    That ordinance will be discussed at Tuesday's city council meeting.

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