Hazing - Pyrotechnics

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Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Control / Environmental and Population Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords Shellcrackers. Cracker shells, bird bombs, screamers
  • Shells projected by shotgun or blank pistol, producing a whistling noise, explosion and/or a flash of light. The sound from banger shells may reach 120dB at 200m. (D10, D160.App3.w11)
  • These can be projected for about 45 to 90 metres. (D10)
  • The radius of effectivity is relatively high: at least 200 m and for some bird species as far as 1 km. (D160.App3.w11)
  • Pyrotechnics can be used with other forms of hazing such as motorboats, land vehicles or scarecrows for increased effect. (D160.App3.w11)

Shot-gun projectiles

  • Shot-guns should be fired from the hip at an angle of 45 degrees. (D135.3.w3, D160.App3.w11, D211.AppIIIc.w12)
    • Shells should not be fired into a strong wind.
  • Shotgun-launched projectiles (bulldog or M-80 firecrackers replacing the shell shot) explode with a flash at 100 to 150 yards (91 to 136 m). (D135.3.w3, D160.App3.w11, D211.AppIIIc.w12)
  • The shell crackers are aimed to explode as close as possible to the birds being hazed. (D160.App3.w11)

Pistol-launched projectiles

  • Pistol-launched projectiles, fired from flare or blank pistols, have a range of 35 to 70 yards (32 to 69 m). (D135.3.w3)
    • The cartridges are fired using a .22 caliber blank. (D211.AppIIIc.w12)
  • The projectiles make hissing/whistling noises in flight or explode after launch. (D135.3.w3)
    • Bird bombs travel about 75 to 125 ft then explode. (D211.AppIIIc.w12)
    • Screamers or whistlers make a screaming or whistling noise as they travel for about 150 to 200 ft; they do not explode. (D211.AppIIIc.w12)
  • Flare guns producing a blaze, smoke trail and explosion may also be used.
  • These should all be fired with the pistol held at arm's length, well away from the face. (D135.3.w3)

CAPA launcher and rockets

  • A modified flare gun which fires a rocket-propelled cartridge which travels about 1000 ft (300 m) before exploding with a very loud report. (D211.AppIIIc.w12)
Appropriate Use (?)
  • May be used both in daytime and at night. (D10, D160.App3.w11)
  • May be easily directed close to water birds. (D10, D160.App3.w11)
  • May be used both on land and water. (D10)
  • May be used alongside other deterrents - can have complementary effect if used with e.g. motorboat, land vehicle, scarecrows. (D10)
  • Particularly effective in deterring open water birds (D10, D160.App3.w11)
  • The CAPA launcher is very useful when it is desirable to use pyrotechnics for long-range hazing. (D211.AppIIIc.w12)
  • Safety goggles/face protector and ear protectors should always be worn. (D10, D135.3.w3, D211.AppIIIc.w12)
  • The light charge means that shotguns used with shell crackers have only a light recoil. (D135.3.w3, D160.App3.w11)
  • Always consider and avoid the potential hazard of igniting spilled oil or dry vegetation. (D135.3.w3, D160.App3.w11)

Shotgun safety and maintenance:

  • The shot gun should be inspected for wadding lodged in the barrel after every shot. (D211.AppIIIc.w12)
  • The barrel should be cleaned using a bore brush after every shooting session. (D211.AppIIIc.w12)
  • NOTE: If no explosion is seen or heard, the barrel of the gun should never be looked down as there is a risk of the shell cracker exploding into the face. (D135.3.w3, D211.AppIIIc.w12)
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Only a break-open type shotgun (that breaks and loads at he breach) should be used, allowing the barrels to be checked between shots to ensure they are clear. (B36.4.w4, D135.3.w3, D160.App3.w11)
  • Not suitable for use over dry vegetation due to the potential fire hazard. (B36.4.w4)
  • Not suitable for use in areas containing volatile oil components. (D10)
  • Limited duration of effect (one or two hours after use). (D10, D160.App3.w11)
  • Not effective on some species - ineffective in deterring gulls and shorebirds, not very effective in deterring dabbling ducks. (D10, D160.App3.w11)
  • Reduced effective range in windy conditions. (D10, D160.App3.w11)
  • Potential hazard to operators and bystanders. (D10, D160.App3.w11)
    • NOTE: If no explosion is seen or heard, the barrel of the gun should never be looked down as there is a risk of the shell cracker exploding into the face. (D135.3.w3)
  • There is a continuous requirement for an operator. (D10, D160.App3.w11)
  • May cause disturbance to both local residents and to personnel involved in e.g. oil spill response. (D160.App3.w11, D211.AppIIIc.w12)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Cracker shells, screamers or bird bombs, or CAPA rockets
  • Appropriate fire-arms (shotgun; starter, blank or flare pistol; CAPA launcher)
  • Operator.
  • Eye and ear protectors. (D211.AppIIIc.w12)
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • Potentially extremely dangerous. Requires a fire-arms trained operator. (D10, D160.App3.w11)
Cost/ Availability
  • Shells are relatively inexpensive. (D10, D160.App3.w11)
  • Screamers and bird bombs cost less than shell crackers. (D211.AppIIIc.w12)
  • CAPA rockets are more expensive than shotgun shells. (D211.AppIIIc.w12)
  • Appropriate shells/screamers/bird bombs may be available from agricultural pest control suppliers. (D211.AppIIIc.w12)
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • A license may be required for use of firearms.
Author Debra Bourne
Referee --
References B36.4.w4, D10, D135.3.w3, D160.App3.w11, D211.AppIIIc.w12

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