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Rabbits Causing Damage To Parked Cars Near DIA

DENVER (CBS4)- Poisons, traps, even all-out hunts. Parking lots near Denver International Airport are increasing their efforts to protect cars from damage caused by rabbits.

Missy Schwab with USAirport Parking says she doesn't have problems with theft or vandalism.

"Our biggest problem is rabbit damage done to vehicles," said Schwab.

Over the years her lot has paid out more than a dozen claims after rabbits chewed the wiring on cars.

"We had one car where rabbits messed up the entire electrical system. It wasn't even drivable," she said.

So the off-site lot is taking aim at the rabbits. They built a $52,000 underground fence to keep out the rabbits. They also installed raptor poles to attract predators. In addition, they have an exterminator poison rabbits on a weekly basis and if all else fails they conduct a cull to shoot the rabbits.

"We wanted to eliminate the problem any way we could just so our customers feel their car is safe while it is here," she said.

Schwab thinks every parking facility near the airport is struggling with rabbit problems, but says her measures are paying off in fewer complaints.

"The open fields are where they live and until it's developed we are all going to have the rabbits."

Pilot Robert Favuzza said he didn't think much of it when he came home from four days of flying and spotted "a couple of bunnies" near his car in the employee parking lot. When he tried to back out of his parking spot, warning lights flashed and his Volkswagen wouldn't drive in reverse.

"You come home and you are totally shocked this happened," he said he took the car to a mechanic who told him rabbits chewed the wiring harness for his transmission.

Favuzza isn't alone. Matt Hernandez at Tilden Car Care says he's fixed rabbit damage from customers' cars parked near the airport and also on his personal car. He says soy-based wiring, often found in German cars, is attractive to rodents.

"It's like a nice big juicy steak for a field mouse or rabbit," he said.

DIA says it partners with the USDA to disturb burrows and trap and remove rabbits from its parking lots. Airport spokesperson Heath Montgomery says formal damage complaints are rare. In 2014, DIA had more than four million parking transactions and only five formal rabbit damage complaints. DIA states on parking validation tickets that the airport is not responsible for damage.

"My employee hang tag says 'not liable for theft or vandals,' but legally I don't think rabbits count as vandals," said Favuzza.

He tried for months to get the city to pay his $428 repair bill, but in the end got a refusal claiming "governmental immunity."

Now Robert has a new method for protecting his car.

"I toss a rubber snake underneath every time I park. It costs me two bucks," and so far, Favuzza says the scare tactic is working.

Mark Ackerman is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. Follow him on Twitter @ackermanmark

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