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Furry partners: Many small animals call Peterson home

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - A hawk rests on a branch at Capt. David Lyon Memorial Park, March 22, 2017, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. Hawks, owls, rabbits, Canada Geese and many other animals make their home here. (U.S. Air Force photo by Craig Denton)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - A hawk rests on a branch at Capt. David Lyon Memorial Park, March 22, 2017, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. Hawks, owls, rabbits, Canada Geese and many other animals make their home here. (U.S. Air Force photo by Craig Denton)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – A squirrel sits next to the 10th tee box at the Silver Spruce golf course chewing on a nut July 18, 2017 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. There are a variety of creatures throughout the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Robb Lingley)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – A squirrel sits next to the 10th tee box at the Silver Spruce golf course chewing on a nut July 18, 2017 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. There are a variety of creatures throughout the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Robb Lingley)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – -- Officially there are 53 mission partners located on Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. If one looks closer, however, there may be hundreds more sharing the base with the Airmen of Team Pete.

Upon closer examination, fur and feather covered creatures also are taking advantage of the base grounds. Rabbits, raccoons, geese and the occasional coyote can be seen on Peterson AFB. Sometimes the numbers of these animals, as well as their habits, can lead to them being classified as pests. When that happens plans are made to handle the issue.

“One of the biggest problems now is rabbits chewing through electric cabling,” said Staff Sgt. Tyler Terrell, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron pest control management.

Whether or not an animal is considered a pest is pretty simple he said. If it is outside an animal is typically considered to be part of nature. But once they get indoors they are pests.

Outdoor rabbits have reached pest classification on the base, said Terrell, because their numbers have swollen due to a lack of predators. He said there are hundreds of rabbits and the population is a concern. When rabbits chewed through cables for a traffic light on base, a plan to deal with the growing population was crafted and enacted in May.

Another animal with a rising population are skunks, said Terrell.

“They are increasing for some reason,” he said. “We trap them and release them off base, then hope they don’t find their way back.”

Once in a while he gets a call to deal with raccoons. Usually those calls are for removing them from a dumpster where they become trapped while foraging through the garbage he said.

Birds can also prove to be problematic around base, especially where aircraft are concerned. Doug Ekberg, wildlife biologist with the 21st Space Wing safety office and the United States Department of Agriculture, said there is a bird-related incident of some kind daily.

“We do a lot of population reduction and bird airstrike hazard management all around,” Ekberg said. “We mainly make sure land management is not conducive to expansion of (bird) populations.”

Birds as small as mourning doves can cause extensive, and expensive, damage to aircraft and their engines, he said.

Ekberg said he watches the habitat within the Federal Aviation Agency’s five-mile radius around airports. The area includes a number of ponds and lakes inside that area. He is concerned with water, grass height and other opportunities that would encourage wild birds to take up residence.

On Peterson AFB, Canada Geese are a regular problem, Ekberg said, especially on the Silver Spruce Golf Course and the softball fields. He said a trained dog is used to haze and harass the birds, causing them to move off of the base.

Raptor populations, including hawks and eagles, around the base have been reduced as well, he said, mainly by limiting their prey, such as prairie dogs.

The occasional coyote or fox may turn up, but they don’t usually get onto the base, said Ekberg. There are outriggers under the ground along the base fence lines that prevent them digging under the fences and getting onto the base proper.

There are many mission partners on Peterson AFB, but many more than meet the eye can be found lurking in the grass and bushes if one looks close enough.

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