Skunk hazard at the airport

(First published in the November 21, 2018 issue of City Pages)

Seriously, it’s a problem. But a plan to allow trapping them at the downtown airport isn’t gaining much support


Chris Hamerla demonstrates a modern animal trap by clamping it on his hand to show how little pressure it uses, as city officials debate allowing trapping at the Wausau Airport.

Wausau officials are considering a proposal to allow trapping skunks near the downtown airport to prevent a hazard to planes flying in and out.

Airport manager John Chmiel says the airport is considering the proposal because of problems with skunks blocking runways and creating the potential for crashes as planes land or take off. The proposed trapping would occur on the grounds outside the airport fence, which keeps deer out but not smaller critters such as skunks.

Only skunks would be trapped; other animals would be released, according to local trapper Chris Hamerla, who proposed this animal control effort to the city. Hamerla says the trap functions with light pressure, closing it on his own hand to demonstrate to the city’s Airport Committee. The traps would be checked every morning, so the nocturnal skunks they capture would be discovered within a few hours.

The committee last week delayed making a decision on trapping until it could further clarify FAA rules on trapping. But residents of the southeast neighborhood and committee members alike recoiled at the idea. Mary Schneider, a resident in that area, says she conducted an online poll and found an overwhelming majority were against the idea.

But others in the neighborhood around the airport said they welcomed the pest control. Greg Stetzer told the committee that he has two black labs and they frequently encounter skunks outside. He fears for the safety of his dogs and welcomes a plan to manage the skunks.

Chmiel says he didn’t go out seeking the trapping proposal, but that Hamerla approached him as he was trying to figure out what to do about the skunks. Chmiel said airport staff couldn’t get an exterminator to come deal with the skunks.

Committee members agreed they could come to a decision by March 2019 at the latest.