The Port of Portland, which owns and operates the Hillsboro Airport, is not interested in killing animals, said Hillsboro Public Affairs Manager Patrick Preston. The goal is to disperse them.

Port representatives have proposed an amendment to the city of Hillsboro’s municipal code to allow “the discharge of weapons to address wildlife hazards at the Hillsboro Airport,” reads an excerpt of the ordinance.

“It’s a change in language that would change the code to apply to wildlife,” Preston said.

The Hillsboro City Council voted 5-1 June 4 to approve changing the wording, which now refers specifically to migratory birds, to include any interference from wildlife.

Steve Johnson, manager of the Port of Portland, said coyotes are increasingly prevalent at the airfield and pose a potential threat to aviation safety. Staff at the Hillsboro Airport have reported sighting coyotes at least twice a week at the airfield, and fresh paw prints remain a common occurrence.

The airport has never recorded a coyote-aircraft strike, but takes “an aggressive pose” in reporting bird strikes. Johnson said two bird strikes have been reported this year without damage or injury, but large animal strikes tend to have more serious impact, so the potential of such a collision is cause for concern.

“Animals on the airfield can cause serious aircraft damage or the loss of human life, resulting from an aircraft-wildlife strike,” Johnson said. “The wildlife hazard management program at Hillsboro Airport is designed to enhance aviation safety.”

He said the program focuses mainly on efforts to scare animals off the airfield using methods such as vehicle horns and lights, a loud propane cannon or shooting noise-making cracker shells from a gun. While managers favor a non-lethal approach, Johnson said some extreme cases may require further measures to protect aviators and aircraft from wildlife hazards.

“A firearm could be used to dispatch an animal that repeatedly returns to the airfield and does not respond to efforts to scare it away from the airfield,” Johnson said.

Although residential areas border two sides of the airfield, Johnson added that airport officials have yet to receive a noise complaint from neighbors.

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