Mallards and other waterfowl that try to take advantage of the water that sometimes pools on Jackson Hole Airport’s runway after storms will soon be blasted with beams of sound.

Purchase of an instrument called a “long range acoustic device” was approved this week by the airport’s board of directors.

The device, which has a price tag of nearly $16,000, is capable of making announcements at long distances and also of sending high frequencies that animals aren’t keen on.

“The investment on our part, it’s related to wildlife mitigation,” airport manager Jim Elwood said. “It focuses a very narrow beam, so it doesn’t impact adjacent areas or wildlife that might not be needing to get moved.

“It’s a tool that may get used very infrequently,” he said, “or maybe we’ll find that it’s very valuable.”

The airport’s chosen make and model, an LRAD 300X-RE, is capable of sending “powerful, intelligible communication” up to 0.6 miles, according to the manufacturer. Measuring about 1 foot by 2 feet, the device includes a “record-on-the-fly microphone” and a “dash-mounted MP3 control module.”

Elwood spoke fondly of the new tool’s versatility. He said Salt Lake City International Airport has successfully made use of a similar device.

“It’s really quite a sophisticated device,” Elwood said. “It’s able to be set to specific species.”

One species that Elwood said won’t be targeted with the acoustic device is the sage grouse, which has caused more bird strikes than any other species at Jackson Hole Airport.

“We don’t see it being used on sage grouse, just because ... there are lots of sensitivities with sage grouse and that particular lek,” he said.

The airport’s Wildlife Hazard Management Plan seeks to mitigate sage grouse conflicts by improving food sources and nesting habitat away from the runway in Grand Teton National Park. The plan also calls for modifying conditions at the airport to make them less attractive to the group of birds that has historically gathered there.

A Federal Aviation Administration database shows 70 bird strikes at the airport since 1994. Over the years 30 sage grouse have been reported hit, though the chicken-size bird hasn’t shown up on the FAA database for nearly three years. Since 2013 only two larger birds have been struck, both great horned owls.

To try to keep owls and other raptors away, the airport is also shoring up its perimeter fence.

Four and a quarter miles of 2-foot-high chicken-wire fencing will soon line the bottom of the higher perimeter fence. The purpose is “to protect small mammals from entering the property and becoming an attractant for raptors,” according to a slide presented at an airport board meeting held Wednesday.

The $9,500 worth of wire will be acquired from Jackson Lumber, which outbid Home Depot, Elwood said.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or environmental@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them for 7 years. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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