Wittman Regional Airport killing of snowy owl lawful but some still upset

Published: Nov. 30, 2017 at 5:10 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

On Monday, we told you wildlife experts expect this winter to be a big one for snowy owl sightings.

A day later, a local airport shot and killed one because of its proximity to a runway.

A pilot landing at Witmann regional airport Tuesday told Audubon club member Janet Wissink an airport employee shot a snowy owl.

"It was upsetting to hear," said Wissink.

We spoke to the pilot that called Wissink. He told Action 2 news that he didn’t want to go on camera. But said while he was taxiing, he was enjoying the sights of the snowy owl then call into the air traffic control tower.

A maintenance worker was sent to shoo the bird away using screamer shells, sirens and more.

"It would not respond, so we had no choice because a bird was adjacent to a runway to a safety area and for the safety of pilots," said Peter Moll, Wittman Regional Airport Director.

Airport officials showed me the proper permits from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, allowing lethal action, as a last resort, against a certain number of protected species under the Migratory Bird Act.

"Having birds striking airplanes is very dangerous," said Moll.

But Wissink says the airport had time to trap and release the owl like it has in the past.

"Those owls weren't anywhere near a runway because it was within the safety area within 100 feet of the runway of the center line," said Moll.

Wissink hopes more proactive steps can be taken next time.

"This is a learning experience for everybody, you know let’s talk, let’s talk, let’s make something better," said Wissink.

Moll says this is the first snowy owl killed by the airport-- in his 12 years as director.