Effort may be made to reduce wildlife cover

A periodic problem at Hannibal Regional Airport, the deer population on that piece of municipal property, is again gaining attention.

During Thursday’s meeting of the Airport Advisory Board a local pilot reported seeing deer in close proximity to the runway. Robin Carroll, the airport’s fixed-base operator, added that recently pilots radioed an advisory that members of the deer herd were actually standing on the runway.

While deer have been seen on the northern end of the 4,400-foot runway, sightings have been most frequent on the southern portion of the runway where frequent flyers say there are both water and cover for the animals.

The removal of cover on city property was discussed. However, it was noted that not all the vegetation that provides cover is within the city’s reach. George Walley of the Airport Advisory Board reported one overgrown section is owned by out-of-state residents, whom have proven difficult to reach in the past when other airport-related issues have arisen.

The airport’s deer herd last made headlines in October 2013 after 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.

After that incident it became common practice for pilots wanting to land in Hannibal to make a low pass over the runway in order to spook any wildlife that might be present.

In the past consideration has been given to erecting a wildlife fence that would completely encircle the airport. However, as of 2014 the estimated cost was $500,000 for a fence suitable of keeping out not just deer, but other wildlife such as coyotes and foxes. That price tag has likely not dropped since then.

While the bulk of the funds for such a project would likely come from the federal government, the city would still have to come up with a local match.

Three years ago the city turned to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service team to reduce the deer population on city property at the airport.

The team made three trips to Hannibal in April 2014. And while a maximum total of 40 deer was set by the Missouri Department of Conservation, only eight were taken during the hunts. The animals taken were given to “Share the Harvest,” a statewide deer donation program.

The cost of the 2014 hunt was funded by a third-party grant, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture subsidizing the contract that was not expected to top $2,000.

The possibilities of staging another hunt or building a fence were not raised during Thursday’s Airport Advisory Board meeting.

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com