The mission of USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services is to provide expertise to resolve wildlife conflicts and allow people and wildlife to coexist. During my recent trip to South Florida I toured Homestead Airbase and learned firsthand about an extremely valuable service provided by APHIS-WS that most folks are not familiar with.
The APHIS-WS team provides recommendations on habitat conditions and wildlife management techniques that help reduce wildlife hazards to aviation. As a result, birdstrikes at Homestead have been reduced by over 90%. This valuable service continues to protect the aviators and 26 F-16 Fighter jets housed there.
These wildlife biologists face unique challenges not seen at many airports. The week before my visit they captured four wild peafowl and chased away more. These non-native birds are as big as wild turkeys, which rank among the top 10 damaging birds in airstrikes
Their work also focuses on the removal and control of invasive species such as, non-native lizards like the Nile Monitor, non-native snakes like pythons and anacondas, and the South American Caiman. I also learned about APHIS-WS control of Gambian pouch rats in the Florida Keys, which could threaten agriculture if they reached the mainland.
These invasive species have become established in South Florida and have negatively impacted native species.
In closing, I want to commend the commitment and success of our APHIS-WS team for the valuable work they do.