By Melinda Munson
Skagwegians have endured the sound of explosions coming from Skagway Airport for almost a month as the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT) hazes birds for airplane safety.
On May 9, the loud noises startled a dog, causing him to jump out his car window and run down Broadway, where he was hit by a vehicle. He died quickly in his owner’s arms.
Deb Potter and Jen Thuss announced the loss of their large, gentle canine, Bernie.
“We’re pretty devastated. His absence will leave a huge void in our family,” they said.
The use of hazing explosions at the airport, not gun fire as some have conjectured, is common practice each spring.
“I don’t even notice it most years,” said Mayor Andrew Cremata who lives in close proximity to the airport. According to the mayor, it’s different this year.
“I’m walking down Broadway – it sounds like Beirut,” he said. Cremata noted that he saw a tourist “recoil in horror.”
Teachers reported that the explosions were a distraction during MAPS testing, parents of children with special needs are frazzled and Facebook is full of an abnormal number of missing pet posts.
Cynthia Tronrud has been fishing spent Range Extender Rockets by Margo Supplies out of the river, hoping they don’t make it downstream.
Cremata said that one day he estimated 50 explosions.
“I reached out to the Department of Transportation in Juneau concerning the large number of explosions on the airport runway over the past couple of weeks,” Cremata said. “They were highly responsive and explained that these efforts are a deterrent to prevent birds from nesting next to the runway. I suggested we seek alternatives and will hopefully have something in place over the next couple of days … I’ve also asked for better messaging so that pet owners and persons with PTSD can better prepare when possible.”
One alternative might be reinstating a volunteer dog walking program. According to Cremata, Paws & Claws will begin working directly with DOT, in the hope that the program can cut down on the number of explosions.
“If the first 25 don’t work, the next 25 aren’t going to,” Cremata surmised.
Alaska Seaplanes, which operates out of the state owned airport, has no control over the hazing.
Due to deadline restraints, The Skagway News was unable to reach DOT before publication.
Potter and Thuss continue to hear the explosions as they mourn their dog.
“I personally will never light another firework in my life,” Potter said.