CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Life could soon become more difficult for Coonskin Park's resident Canada goose population, as officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services Program work out a plan to control the waterfowl's population in an effort to head off possible collisions with aircraft using nearby Yeager Airport.
According to Tim Murnahan, assistant director at Yeager, 250 to 300 Canada geese live year-round at Coonskin, which adjoins the Charleston airport.
"While we don't see geese on the airfield, about 80 percent of the airplanes coming into Yeager go over the park as they approach," Murnahan said during a meeting of the airport's governing board Wednesday.
It was a flock of geese colliding with a US Airways flight departing New York's LaGuardia International Airport in 2009 that triggered the incident known as the "Miracle on the Hudson," when pilot Chesley Sullenberger managed to land a disabled airliner safely in the Hudson River.
"The USDA is looking into ways to reduce wildlife collisions at airports across the country," Murnahan said.
About 1,400 Canada geese were struck by aircraft in the United States between 1990 and 2012, according to Bird Strike Committee USA, a government-industry coalition trying to reduce bird strike numbers. The consequences can be devastating for both geese and aircraft, since a 12-pound goose struck by an airplane flying 150 miles per hour generates kinetic energy equal to a 1,000-pound weight dropping 10 feet.
According to the USDA, the nonmigrating, or resident, Canada goose population in North America has risen from about 500,000 birds in 1970 to nearly 4 million last year.
Murnahan said it is not known what approach the USDA will recommend to reduce the Canada goose hazard at Yeager. A report is expected from the agency next month. A variety of lethal and nonlethal approaches have been taken at other U.S. airports.
In other developments during Wednesday's board meeting, board member and retired state Adj. Gen. Allen Tackett praised state and county officials for their aid in securing a new bridge and controlled-access road leading to state National Guard headquarters complex and the 130th Airlift Wing.