A California teenager's innovative Eagle Scout project is being used to protect wildlife and improve airport safety after catching the attention of the federal government.
In effort to safely ensnare migrating red-tailed hawks and other raptors that fly on to airports grounds and often collide with planes, Caleb Levine, 16, of San Jose, Calif. created a trap that safely contains the birds for release away from the airport.
The project was part of his required community service hours for the Boy Scouts of America and was brought to the attention of airport and government authorities by his assistant scoutmaster.
"They naturally like to hover over the runways because of the thermals and the prey," explained Megan Klosterman, the Mineta San Jose International Airport's biologist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "It's a nice place for them to stop and feed."
Based on the Swedish Goshawk design, Levine's wood-and-mesh creation functions by closing in on raptors after they land on the the trap, lured in by pigeons placed in a separate cage below. After being trapped, the raptor is brought at least 100 miles away and released into the wild.
This isn't the first time scouts have taken on the issue of bird-plane collisions. In August, a Palos Verdes boy scout troop set up similar traps at Los Angeles International Airport.
Two of Levine's traps have been set up at the San Jose airport, where one hawk has already been trapped.
"When Megan emailed me that she first caught the bird, I was very excited because looking at this, you wouldn't think it would catch anything," Levine told KTVU. "But since we did, I did think I accomplished something."
Bird collisions are a safety concern for planes and passengers as well. The Federal Aviation Administration reports that over the last 23 years, bird strikes have forced an average one plane a day to make a premature landing.
"The civil and military aviation communities have long recognized that the threat from aircraft collisions with wildlife is real and increasing," the FAA announced in a report released in September. "Globally, wildlife strikes have killed more than 250 people and destroyed over 229 aircraft since 1988."
Levine has hopes his trap will become an airport standard.
"I think this could go big because it helps so many people, so many birds," he said.