Gulls, geese and pigeons are like other wild animals: If they can find an easy source of food and a protected place to live, that’s where they’ll go. But this means they often venture into manufactured environments like airports or condos, which create problems.
Bird droppings can erode metal and stonework as well as pose a health hazard. At airports and industrial sites, birds can impede the safe use of aircraft and machinery.
This presented a business opportunity for Duncan-based Pacific Northwest Raptors. For 20 years they have been using hawks, falcons and bald eagles to redirect problem birds away from man-made environments.
Though the company’s goal is redirection, Raptors wildlife program co-ordinator Sean Baynton says lethal removal does happen. Their birds of prey occasionally catch and kill. Shooting birds with firearms is sometimes necessary when they are posing an acute risk to aircraft at airports. Other methods the company uses to scare birds away include sirens, drones and even pyrotechnics.
“We try to create a landscape of fear,” says Baynton. “In whatever area you’re managing, you’re setting up that sustained predator pressure.”
Wildlife management accounts for 70 per cent of the company’s revenue. This business used to subsidize the company’s raptor centre in Duncan, where staff train and breed birds, and offer courses and hands-on experiences to bird lovers of all ages. The centre has gained in popularity and is now almost self-sustaining.
Millions of birds around the world live side by side with humans, and it would be impossible to relocate them all to natural environments. Pacific Northwest Raptors is cognizant of that.
“We’re building where birds naturally live,” says Radcliffe. “We don’t just want to kill or move these birds unnecessarily; we want them to find homes that are healthier for them, and keep people safe in the process.”