The city may have found someone to help with its deer population issue at Hannibal Regional Airport. Mark Rees, city engineer, will be contacting the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which reportedly has a program designed to “resolve wildlife conflicts that threaten public … safety.”
“I think it's going to help,” said Rees, who hopes this week to have a preliminary conversation with a representative of Wildlife Services, a program within the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
Rees credits the Police Department with coming up with the USDA option a year or so ago when the trial idea of staging a deer hunt at the airport was first floated.
“It’s good news for me,” said Rees of the possibility of being able to turn over such an operation to a federal agency.
If details can be worked out, it would lift from the city the responsibility of having to say who would be allowed to hunt at the airport.
“That's what I'm even more excited about,” said Rees. “It's left to the federal agency which specializes in this sort of thing. It will keep it clean. There will not be a bickering contest over who gets to sit out there and eradicate the deer because that is what it was boiling down to. I was starting to be contacted by people wanting to do it. That was never going to be an option.”
According to information supplied Rees by HPD, only USDA personnel would be involved in the airport hunt.
While during previous deer herd reduction discussions members of the city’s Airport Advisory Board indicated a desire to have the deer taken donated to a local food bank, it is not yet known if that will be an option.
Neither does Rees have any idea when such a hunt might take place.
“Time will tell when they could actually do it,” he said.
While a hunt is the short-term solution to the airport’s deer population, Rees has another option in mind.
“My ultimate goal and wish is to have a wildlife fence and eliminate it (deer incursions) that way. It's a pretty good expense and investment, and will have to wait its turn, but it is something we're looking at into the far future,” he said.
The estimated cost of a fence suitable to keep out deer, coyotes, foxes, etc., and would completely encircle airport property is $500,000. While the bulk of the funds would likely come from the federal government, the city would still have to come up with a local match.
Page 2 of 2 - “If the (federal) funding is available, we'd be required to come up with a 5 to 10 percent match,” said Rees. “It's still a significant investment; nothing to be sneezed at.”
Deer concerns heightened at the Hannibal airport after an Oct. 29 incident in which a pilot attempting to land reported nearly hitting one of nine deer on the runway. The pilot aborted the attempted landing, circled the field and landed without incident.
According to a federal report issued last September, from 1990 to 2012, 1,037 deer were struck by civil aircraft in the U.S.