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News > Daring duo defends Dover AFB
Bird Watching
Melody Henderson, Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard ecologist, displays her pistol and pyrotechnic ammunition Aug. 28, 2012, near the flightline on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Henderson uses the pyrotechnic ammo to scare away flocks of birds near the flightline to prevent the aircraft from hitting them. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chuck Walker)
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Daring duo defends Dover AFB

Posted 9/21/2012   Updated 9/21/2012 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Kathryn Stilwell
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

9/21/2012 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del.  -- When birds are at their peak and flying along their migration routes is typically when Melody Henderson, Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard ecologist and wildlife manager at Dover Air Force Base, Del., and her rescued border collie, Kilo, are at their busiest. Their job is to move birds and small mammals, such as groundhogs, foxes and feral cats, to discourage them from sitting in fields near the runways at Dover AFB.

Their goal is to prevent wildlife from colliding with aircraft; this occurrence, known as a "bird strike," has resulted in millions of dollars worth of damages and loss of life. Prevention is the key. Henderson and Kilo accomplish the task by maintaining a five-mile perimeter around the base that includes the property of private landowners above which planes often perform their initial climb and final approach. That is when the most bird strikes cause damage to aircraft.

"Our mission is to mitigate the possibility of a damaging strike," said Henderson. "I like this job because you never do the same thing twice."

Learning the behavior of wildlife is an important aspect of the job. By discovering how animals react to different forms of harassment, and the reasons they settle on, or near, the base, more effective methods of deterrence can be developed. Everything is examined, from what the animals eat, to the length of grass in which they settle, to the dimensions of ditches built around the base.

By keeping birds from the flight path, Henderson, along with the team of squadrons and base agencies that support her mission, not only keeps aircraft safe, but members of Team Dover as well.

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