Hugh Murray doesn’t have a list of ‘to-do’s, but a to-done list’. After 13 years of wildlife management at Vancouver International Airport (YVR), he is retiring. The most rewarding part of those years he told AviNews was his ‘reputation for getting things done, for listening to everyone’s concerns, and paying attention to the small details’, and in that way, building team spirit.
Before he goes, he wants to pass on as much knowledge as possible to those who want to listen. That’s quite a turnaround from the man who came out of eight years of retirement to apply for a job advertised in the local paper as a wildlife control officer at YVR, with little knowledge of wildlife and even less of airports. After the interview, the wildlife biologist interviewing him said, ‘I understand you know the difference between a goose and a duck, that’s a plus, but why should I hire you?’ To which Hugh replied, ‘You can teach me to be whatever you want, and I’ll do whatever you want.’
Hugh had never worked at an airport – for him like most, ‘an airport was a place where you got your suitcase, got on a plane, and went somewhere,’ so it was a steep learning curve, starting with learning the rules of driving airside to qualify for his airside vehicle operator’s permit (AVOP). However, he went on to be manager of the wildlife program at YVR, and more recently, because of his many years of wildlife hazard management experience at YVR, has been training and mentoring new wildlife technicians.
Over those 13 years, he says there have been changes in approaches to wildlife hazard management and in the ebb and flow of risk species. ‘The hazard management is much more science-based, there’s greater record keeping, and more training in dispersal.’ And with the wildlife, ‘dunlin, are less of a problem now, there aren’t the significant numbers there used to be’. However, the snow geese population has increased dramatically. ‘This year there’s been a 30 per cent increase in the hatch; with the defrosting in Siberia, there are more areas to nest,’ Hugh explains, ‘and although snow geese are smaller than Canada geese, they’re more tenacious.’ When AviNews spoke with him in Vancouver, they were in the middle of the busiest time, from October to December, when the snow geese are migrating south for the winter, ‘then there’s a brief lull, and in late February to April, the birds start to come back’ to breed in the north.
‘I want to stress how much I have enjoyed working at YVR, and the immense satisfaction I have gained from teaching people various skills I have picked up over those 13 years.’ We wish you a happy and long second retirement, Hugh – your counsel and knowledge will be sorely missed.