Belfast International Airport

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Have you seen our furry friends at the airport?

Published: 23 August 2013

At the Hareport!

If you are waiting to board a plane at the airport you may just be lucky enough to see some furry creatures leaping around the runways.  Over 60 Irish hares have made the airfield their home, the wide open spaces of the runways and taxiways make an ideal habitat for the hare.  They can be found all over the airport, not just on the airfield, you may have seen them while parking your car in many of the airport car parks.

Hare numbers run in cycles, possibly because of their relationship with their main predator — the fox. As hare numbers rise, foxes keep them in check and as numbers fall, fox numbers fall. And the hares don't go unnoticed by our passengers, many people using the airport make reference to the hare and they are not difficult to spot as they can be quite large.  They normally come out at night and have been known to sit on the airport lights to keep warm!

It seems they prefer the airport due to the lack of predators and because the habitat is more suitable than on intensively farmed land, where the grass tends to be all one species and landowners use pesticides.  All kinds of wild grasses are grown here, which we cut once a year.  It's completely shaved at the end of May and June.

The airport is a relatively safe environment for the hares, no-one can come on to the land to shoot, dogs can't get in to chase them and birds of prey and crows are scared off with safety measures. It leaves only foxes to pose any threat — and on the wide flat lands they can be seen coming from a long way away.

The airport hares seem to buck the trends in several different ways. For one, hares are regarded as solitary creatures, but at the airport they can be seen in family groups of 10 to 12. You wouldn't see that on farmland.   They are a nocturnal species but here they can be seen day and night.   

So next time you are travelling through the airport, keep your eyes peeled for our furry friends.

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