Two Western Gulls, rescued from the seabird shooting incident at Oakland International Airport on December 23rd have died in care at the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) in Fairfield, California. Both sustained multiple gun shot wounds as a result of a decision by airport officials to shoot into large flocks of birds gathered in the water close to the runway in an effort to ensure air traffic safety.
The two gulls were the last of five birds found injured but alive following the incident that have since died in care despite efforts by IBRRC’s expert rehabilitation team to heal their wounds. In total more than 60 birds died in the incident.
As we previously stated, IBRRC supports any and all humane methods to haze birds away from airports to insure human safety. However, we strongly suggest that Oakland International Airport reconsider its tactics which, in this instance, were neither effective nor humane.
All the evidence seems to suggest that the birds were feeding on a ‘bait ball,’ a large school of fish that attracts birds and marine mammals to feed in high numbers. It’s unlikely that the birds dispersed after some were shot. If they did, it was most likely due to the moving fish.
The only way to disrupt a bait ball would be to disperse the fish, not the birds. As such, it would be much more effective to consider these events as an act of nature, like bad weather. They are often short-lived and will disperse quickly and of their own accord.