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Keeping Airline Passengers and Wildlife Safe: APHIS and its Partners Work to Identify Best Management Practices for Wildlife Repellents at Airports

Posted by Gail Keirn, APHIS Legislative and Public Affairs in Animals
Nov 29, 2021
A short-eared owl looks for prey while perched on an airport runway beacon
A short-eared owl looks for prey while perched on an airport runway beacon. USDA Wildlife Services is partnering with a private company to identify best practices for using the wildlife repellent, Flight Control® Max, at airports. (Photo by USDA Wildlife Services)

UPDATE: Wildlife Repellent Trialed at U.S. Airports

In collaboration with USDA’s National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC), USDA’s Wildlife Services (WS) operational programs coordinated 2021 trials of a wildlife repellent at cooperating airports in WA, OR, SD, OK, WI, MI, VA, NC and SC. NWRC researchers have previously observed laboratory efficacy of anthraquinone-based repellents in wild birds, rodents and rabbits. Flight Control® Max (active ingredient: 9,10 anthraquinone; Arkion Life Sciences LLC) was registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for applications at U.S. airports in November 2020. So far, repellency of Flight Control® Max treatments has been observed in Canada geese, sandhill cranes and several small birds, and no repellency has been observed in Eastern meadowlarks and migratory mourning doves associated with the 2021 airport trials. These trials have been completed at four airports, and ongoing trials are planned to continue at remaining airports during the winter of 2021–22. The results of these trials are being used to develop best management practices for the application of wildlife repellents at U.S. airports. NWRC researchers are currently planning supplemental research regarding the effectiveness of Flight Control® Max at cooperating airports in 2022 & 2023. For more information, please visit the WS National Wildlife Research Center’s Repellents Research Project and WS National Airport Wildlife Hazards Program websites.


A variety of wildlife species—from birds to rodents and rabbits—often visit airport environments leading to safety concerns for both wildlife and airline passengers. Collisions between wildlife and aircraft have increased in the past 30 years because of an increase in both hazardous wildlife species populations and aircraft movements. To help reduce the risk of these potentially dangerous interactions, USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services (WS) biologists provide airport operators across the Nation with advice and recommendations on how to keep runways and flight paths clear of wildlife.

“As part of an effort to help guide recommendations on the use of a naturally occurring wildlife repellent at airports, WS is planning a series of trials at airports in several states,” states WS research wildlife biologist Dr. Scott Werner.

This year, WS researchers and airport biologists from eight states are partnering with Arkion Life Sciences, LLC to identify best management practices for applying an anthraquinone-based repellent called Flight Control® Max. Anthraquinone is a naturally occurring compound that is found in more than 200 plant species in North America. When eaten, anthraquinone has a repellency effect in many wild birds and some wild rodents.

“Arkion is providing their wildlife repellent for use in field trials at approximately 12 military, civil and joint-use airports nationwide,” continues Werner. “The repellent will be applied at various locations on our cooperating airports. WS airport biologists will then survey and compare the wildlife on treated and nearby untreated locations. Results will help us identify what worked and what didn’t work and will be the basis for recommended best management practices for use of the repellent at airports.”

WS plans to make its findings known later this year. For more information, please visit the WS National Wildlife Research Center’s Repellents Research Project and WS National Airport Wildlife Hazards Program websites.

Category/Topic: Animals

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