MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — The number of animal strikes at the Myrtle Beach International Airport has increased steadily over the last decade, according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration.

There were 37 reported strikes at the airport in 2020, down slightly from 43 the previous year, according to the FAA. 

While the number of reported strikes has increased from where numbers were a decade ago, the amount of reported strikes has steadily decreased since a peak in 2017. 

Of the 37 incidents where animals hit aircraft last year, 11 involved killdeer, 16  birds were of an unknown species, two were European starlings and one animal was a Virginia opossum. Other animals hit over the last two years also include tree swallows, microbats, a red-tailed hawk, a red-winged blackbird and a red-billed gull.

The FAA estimates that wildlife strikes cost the aviation industry about $500 million a year.

From 1988 to 2019, 292 people have died due to wildlife strikes worldwide, according to the FAA. About 271 civil aircraft were destroyed during that same timeframe.

About 330 people have been injured due to wildlife striking U.S. civil aircraft between 1990 to 2019.

Strike reporting has been on the rise since 2009, after U.S. Airways Flight 1549 flew into a flock of Canada geese while leaving LaGuardia Airport on its way to Charlotte. The birds were sucked into two engines, causing a complete loss of power and leading to what has since been dubbed as the “Miracle on the Hudson.”

While ducks and geese account for 5% of strikes, they make up 28% of crashes that cause damage to aircraft.

The FAA made its national wildlife strike database publicly available following the Miracle on the Hudson crash, and attributes the crash to an immediate 25% increase in strike reporting, a trend which has continued.

None of the 2020 strikes in Myrtle Beach were damaging, according to FAA data. Two strikes have been reported at the airport so far this year. The airport did not respond to a request for comment.

Bird strikes are most likely to happen from July to October during fall migration, according to the FAA. The majority of strikes occur during the day and during landing.

Collisions can be avoided through wildlife management programs, which work to move birds out of the area surrounding airports.