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Starlings Land at Pope AFB, Leaving Danger In Their Wake

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POPE AIR FORCE BASE — Thousands of birds are flocking inside hangars atPope Air Force Base, posing a threat to airmen and to the surrounding community.

About 5,000 starlings began using the largest hangar as their nightside sleeping spot several months ago, and they quickly became a nightmare for workers.

"Just opening a hangar door, an everyday operation, at night you look up and they're just dropping on you," says Staff Sgt. James Isaacs. "You've got to wear bags over your head ... You'll see people running in and out of the hangar because they know they're going to get dive-bombed."

The droppings could make airmen sick.

"They're in danger of things like histoplasmosis, encephalitis, salmonella, not to mention there's a few other things that the birds carry, like ticks and fleas, which can carry other diseases," says Bruce Somers, Chief of Environmental Flight.

The fecal matter also corrodes and eats away at the multi-million dollar aircraft inside the hangar.

But the main reason the U.S. Department of Agriculture is now using a poison to kill the starlings is because when they are flying together outside the hangar, they pose the ultimate danger.

"When these flocks of starlings fly out in front of an aircraft, which they do pretty often, there's the hazard of an aircraft going down on base or in the local community out here," Somers says.

It plans to feed the birds poison again Thursday, which should eradicate 95 percent of them.

Officials say they cannot simply keep the birds out of the building because the doors are opened all the time to bring aircraft in and out to be serviced.


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