Buddy the Bear: Wildlife at Airports

Our airport is located in the mountains, and as such, we share our space with the critters who call WNC home.  Early this month, we had a “critter visitor” who decided to stay a while.  We named him “Buddy.”  And he’s a black bear.

Buddy climbed a tree near our parking lot one night, and hung out there for nearly four days.  You may have seen his picture on television – our friends at WLOS heard about our bear from some passengers, and gave him his fifteen minutes of fame on the evening news!

What you may not know is that we take our interaction with wildlife at the airport very seriously.  We certainly want to respect our wildlife neighbors, and at the same time, deter them from coming to the airport.  Safety is our top priority, and wildlife can cause unsafe conditions at an airport – especially if they are present in the vicinity of the airfield (or in public areas, depending on the kind of animal in that area).

Buddy the bear is a good example.  When we learned of his presence in the tree, we contacted state wildlife biologists to determine an appropriate plan to ensure public safety.  We were told that the bear would most likely leave on his own, so our public safety department monitored him closely.  Wildlife biologists were on alert to encourage him down from the tree and capture and release him, if needed.  Fortunately, Buddy got bored with the view (and maybe wanted a quieter place to rest), and headed home.

All commercial airports are required by the Federal Aviation Administration to have wildlife management programs in place.  These programs include:  (1) daily inspections of key areas at and around the airport – in which we look for things like wildlife, signs of wildlife and habitat issues; (2) wildlife control measures, such as fencing and habitat alterations; and (3) wildlife deterrent measures, such as use of “scare rounds” and bangers, which are noise tactics used to scare birds and other wildlife away from the airfield.

At Asheville Regional Airport, we work closely with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to ensure that our wildlife plan is appropriate and effective.  We train staff annually, and we inspect conditions daily.  It is our responsibility, and a part of our focus on safety.