BENTONVILLE — City officials are asking the state for a permit to kill geese at the municipal airport.
"It's the least expensive and most effective" method for removing the birds congregating at the north end of the runway, Chuck Chadwick, airport manager, said at the Airport Advisory Board's meeting Thursday.
Geese typically spend about four months each spring at the airport, posing a safety hazard that could cause a plane crash, officials have said.
Bird hitting aircraft injured 311 people in the United States from 1990 to 2017 and 287 fatalities worldwide from 1988 to 2017, according to the Federal Administration Aviation.
It's an issue the board has discussed on and off over several years. Board members decided in the summer action needed to be taken before spring. They discussed several ways to deter geese — change their habitat, move them, harass them or kill them.
Harassment — to scare them off with dogs, hawks or another method — is the most expensive, and the geese would have to be moved at least 300 miles so they don't find their way back to the airport. The conservation project and development of Osage Park north of the lake removes the option of changing the habitat, officials previously said.
"There's been lots of talking. Now it's time to start taking action," Chadwick said.
The city is seeking a permit from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. A committee of Osage Park representatives and members of the Parks and Recreation and Police departments needs to be created and develop a plan to kill the geese, Chadwick said, explaining the logistics can get complicated.
Osage Park is the privately owned 74 acres north of the airport's runway. The Walton Family Foundation is spearheading development of the land with boardwalks winding through the wetland, trails and an expanded Lake Bentonville.
Trained law enforcement must shoot the geese, but it'll be tricky to schedule their visits when geese are present. The public park will need to be vacated and nearby residents on the airport's east side need to be notified, Chadwick and board members discussed.
Some regions have notification systems alerting residents when a kill is about to take place so the emergency dispatch center isn't overwhelmed with calls about shots fired, said Richard Ham, board chairman. He wondered if that might be an option.
"There's a public relations issue there, no doubt about it," he said.
There have been about 194,000 incidents of planes hitting wildlife in the United States between 1990 and 2017, 14,400 of which were at 700 airports in 2017, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.