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What is a Wildlife Strike?

Airplane leaving airport.Wildlife strikes are when birds or other animals collide with an airplane. This may occur when the airplane is taking off, landing, or while it is in the air. Wildlife strikes have increased in the past 30 years because both populations of many hazardous wildlife species and numbers of aircraft movements are increasing (Dolbeer and Eschenfelder 2003). For example, 13 of the 14 largest (>8 lbs) bird species in North America have shown significant population increases in the past 30 years. These species include Canada geese, white and brown pelicans, sandhill cranes, wild turkeys, and bald eagles.

What is “snarge”?

Snarge is the biological remains left on a plane after a wildlife strike. If snarge is collected and sent to the Smithsonian Institute's Feather Identification Lab, feather fragments can be used to identify the species involved in some wildlife strikes. For strikes without significant feather fragment material, DNA can be extracted from the blood and tissue samples to positively identify the animal involved.

Wildlife Strike Database - Wildlife Services, through an interagency agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration, has managed the National Wildlife Strike Database (NWSD) from 1990 to the present. The NWSD contains over 210,000 records of strike reports between civil aircraft and wildlife in the USA, including about 14,400 reports in 2017.

In addition, more than 4,000 strikes were reported by the U.S. Air Force in 2017.

Wildlife collisions with aircraft cost U.S. civil and military aviation approximately $1 billion annually and pose a serious safety hazard.

Click here for more information about how to collect, ship and report wildlife strikes that occur with civil and military aircraft.

Click here for more information about the Smithsonian Institute's Feather Identification Lab.

Click here for more information about the FAA Wildlife Strike Database.

Click here for "Feather Identification: When Birds Collide" about strike identification and response.

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