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Cannon behind the scenes: handling wildlife humanely

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Alexxis Pons Abascal
  • 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
*This feature is the fourth in a series of Air Commando highlights at Cannon.

The 27th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron entomology flight takes their mission at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., very seriously.

"Our primary job is making sure the aircraft at Cannon can operate safely and effectively," said Tech. Sgt. Steven Millerd, 27 SOCES NCOIC of pest management. "We accomplish this by ensuring there isn't any threat of Bird Air Strike Hazards on the flightline."

BASH is just part of entomology's mission. Under Air Force Special Operations Command, they handle animal control on base to include stray cats, dogs, insects, reptiles and even the occasional prairie dog.

"We handle anything that can pose a significant threat to members within our community," said Millerd. "Feral cats are a big issue on base and could pose a potential threat to our military working dogs. We frequently place traps in problem areas to protect not just our military assets, but residents and their pets as well."

Entomology takes every measure to be as humane as possible when dealing with wildlife. They employ a catch-and-release method rather than simply killing animals.

Entomology sets out traps when calls come in expressing concerns about wildlife in the area. It is important that local residents not tamper with these traps to avoid injuring themselves or the caged animals.

"If an animal is trapped without a tag, we take it to a local shelter to have it scanned for a microchip," said Millerd. "Unfortunately, it would cost the government a significant amount of money to impound every animal captured. Therefore, relocation of trapped wildlife is the most humane alternative."

Entomology recently engaged in a biological control test to deal with flies in the surrounding area. The entomology flight had parasitic wasp larva that feed primarily on fly larva sent to Cannon . It was the first time Cannon introduced another insect to the area to control the number of flies near the base.

"The parasitic wasps we brought over posed no threat to personnel or the environment," said Millerd. "These nocturnal wasps are roughly the size of gnats, they don't sting people and they feed on fly larva. We noted a significant decrease in the number of flies and no adverse impact after the initial test-run."

In a deployed location, entomology focuses on public health. They make sure living conditions meet regulated health-standards so deployed Air Commandos are fit to fly, fight and win.

"It's nice to know that we are making a difference," said Airman 1st Class Jacob Mathis, 27 SOCES pest manager. "We are all mission essential. Public health concerns everyone and it just so happens that we are set in place to cover that concern for our people and AFSOC."