HomeNewsArticle Display

Wing partners with local cement plant, USDA to study black vultures

A C-17 Globemaster III aircraft assigned to the 167th Airlift Wing flies above a group of vultures soaring in thermals over Argos Cement Plant in Martinsburg, W.Va., Nov. 8, 2018. The black vultures have been roosting at the plant for more than a year posing a threat to local aviation. The 167th AW has teamed up with the USDA and Argos Cement Plant to research the behaviors of the vultures to help mitigate the aviation threats. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

A C-17 Globemaster III aircraft assigned to the 167th Airlift Wing flies above a group of vultures soaring in thermals over Argos Cement Plant in Martinsburg, W.Va., Nov. 8, 2018. The black vultures have been roosting at the plant for more than a year posing a threat to local aviation. The 167th AW has teamed up with the USDA and Argos Cement Plant to research the behaviors of the vultures to help mitigate the aviation threats. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

Master Sgt. Alan Romero, 167th Airlift Wing airfield manager, tags a black vulture being held by Chad Neil, a wildlife biologist for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Wildlife Service. Wildlife biologists with Conservation Science Global, Inc., observe the tagging. The 167th AW has teamed up with the USDA and Argos Cement Plant to research the behaviors of the vultures to help mitigate the aviation threats. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Frye, Argos Cement Plant)

Master Sgt. Alan Romero, 167th Airlift Wing airfield manager, tags a black vulture held by Chad Neil, a United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Wildlife Service wildlife biologist. Wildlife biologists with Conservation Science Global, Inc., observe the tagging. The 167th AW has teamed up with the USDA and Argos Cement Plant to research the behaviors of the vultures to help mitigate the aviation threats. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Frye, Argos Cement Plant)

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AFNS) -- The 167th Airlift Wing, Argos Cement Plant and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Wildlife Services have teamed up to research black vultures in and around Martinsburg, West Virginia, in an effort to mitigate potential aviation hazards.

About 50 of the black vultures that have taken residence on Argos’ property, located less than two miles from the Martinsburg airfield, have been fitted with a red tag bearing an alphanumeric code on one wing as part of the research into how they move and interact with the local environment.

“The more we can learn about them, the easier they will be to manage,” said Andrew Frye, Argos environmental manager.

Black vulture aircraft strikes cost the Air Force more than $75 million from fiscal years 1995 to 2016, second only to Canada goose aircraft strikes. They are also second in civil aircraft strikes involving human injury.

Chad Neil, a wildlife biologist for USDA APHIS Wildlife Services-West Virginia and part of the 167th AW’s Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard (BASH) team, said there are more than 100 black vultures roosting on Argos’ property, a mining area since the late 1800s.

According to Frye, the plant’s deep quarry, the 400-plus-foot tower and the heat thermals created by the large kiln on the site create an attractive environment for the black vultures, a protected migratory bird.

They tend to soar in flocks to spot their food—mostly mostly carrion, roost together in trees or transmission towers and nest in dark cavities.

With a wing span up to three feet, black vultures are often seen flying around the top of Argos’ tower.

Neil said he and the 167th AW’s airfield management and flight safety representatives chase them off the airfield daily.

The black vultures began making an appearance on the Argos property in the summer of 2017 and the population has steadily increased, according to Frye.

Frye solicited Neil’s help to catch and tag the birds and also contracted a research biologist to analyze data collected from the tagged vultures.

“This has got to be a concentrated and coordinated effort,” said Frye, who intends to fund telemetry monitors in the future to aid in the research.

Neil and the USDA Wildlife Services obtain Federal Migratory Bird Depredation Permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to tag the black vultures and to take a limited number of them.

The number they are permitted to take is based partly on the population, which Neil said is underestimated in the area.

Black vultures are most common in Central America and the southeastern U.S., but have extended their range beyond the mid-Atlantic region in the last several decades.

Neil said he doesn’t want to euthanize every bird they catch. “They do have their spot in the ecosystem -- cleaning up dead animals and roadkill,” he said.

“In theory, the more birds we can get tagged and dispersed back out there, the more likely they can get seen and reported, the more we can learn,” said Neil.

Engage

Facebook Twitter
#Doyouevenlift? We do! @AirMobilityCmd #C17s recently delivered #hope on its way to the man-made humanitarian crisi… https://t.co/b1GicnXJ3l
.@AFWERX & @Techstars announce the 10 companies participating in #techaccelerator. See how they're working to solve… https://t.co/BCdoR4Cmmt
RT @DeptofDefense: These probably aren’t the FRIES you’re used to. @USArmy Special Forces operators practice their skills with the Fast Ro…
RT @AFEnergy: From installations, to propulsion, to maintenance, to research... engineers are critical to every part of the @usairforce mis…
.@HAFB #Airmen and the F-35 are a lethal combo during exercise Red Flag. For more about the exercise:… https://t.co/nc7F82hPI8
A B-2 Spirit bomber, deployed from @Whiteman_AFB, is staged on the flightline @JointBasePHH, Jan. 30, 2019. (… https://t.co/SVPJe2AfGH
#USAF, @USMC & @USArmy air & ground force elements train together, strengthen skills in the field and sky. #Jointhttps://t.co/Arm1IXIaDy
#DYK: @DMAFB is one of seven #AirForce bases w/forward area refueling point capabilities, and there are only 63 qua… https://t.co/UI2SzoYdjA
RT @AirMobilityCmd: Anyone out there watch Super Bowl LIII? Well, @USNorthernCmd and NORAD fighter aircraft kept the airspace safe during t…
#AirForce formalizes policy on retention of non-deployable Airmen. https://t.co/O8yfj5acRt https://t.co/7t5ynNMgo2
It's a 2-way street! Find out how our #ProfessionalDevelopment Teams are a benefit to both mentor and mentee.… https://t.co/nxmtpZWnis
.@30thSpaceWing civilians use #innovation, reutilization, and team dynamics to save #USAF $1 billion.… https://t.co/TpFKYvaxay
.@374AirliftWing #Airmen are leading the way, learning how the M50 gas mask works w/other #USAF large-frame aircraf… https://t.co/n3cuh1OQnd
“Being self-aware and keeping my mental composure through very intense situations was key.” - Senior #Airman Jeffre… https://t.co/DM22RiBKNN
Citing health, safety concerns, @SecAFOfficial and @GenDaveGoldfein order commanders to conduct ‘100% review’ of al… https://t.co/DzvwOAQDvH
The 6 finalists of @SecAFOfficial’s #SparkTank initiative will showcase their ideas to #USAF senior leaders at… https://t.co/s9PUuNa3BN
The U.S. considers freedom to operate in #space a vital national interest, one that is fundamental to prosperity &… https://t.co/qcgciOUiTe
WARNING: This will leave you wanting more! https://t.co/8oLhRQXyiE
RT @cspan: Today on C-SPAN: 10am – Former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew @atlanticcouncil 12:15pm – U.S. Withdrawal from #Afghanistan @cftni