Hare Traffic Control: Rabbits Shut Airport

Two hares run on Linate airport runway as they try to escape during a 3-hour hunt that was carried out at the airport of Milan, Italy, in the early hours of Sunday, June 17, 2007. The airport was forced to close between 5 and 8 a.m. and 12 flights were rescheduled, as 200 volunteers used some 4 kilometers of nets in order to capture the hares and move them to a safe haven. During the operation, which became necessary as the presence of the hares - grown more numerous due to a mild winter - were disturbing the ground control radar. Over 50 hares were captured.(AP Photo/Alberto Pellaschiar)
AP Photo/Alberto Pellaschiar
Milan's Linate airport was closed early Sunday while 200 hunters tried to outfox scores of hares infesting its runways.

The operation was ordered after hares became tangled in aircraft landing gear twice in recent weeks.

Officials say at least 80 hares are living on the airport grounds, confusing radar equipment and endangering flights taking off and landing.

The province of Milan has to routinely catch the fertile hares because they interfere with takeoffs and landings, They can also cause false alarms with the airport's radar system, said Nicoletta Angioni, spokeswoman for SEA, the company that operates Milan's airports.

"There are always hares at the airport, the problem is that lately there were too many, and they cause problems with the radar and sensors that monitor the airport," she said in a telephone interview.

"We have in the airport a security system which is activated by hares running past. Other risks could be hares being hit by aircraft or vehicles moving in the airport," Director of Operations at Linate Airport, Captain Marco Alberti, told AP Television.

Fifty-seven hares and four wild rabbits were caught, part of a twice-annual capture to keep the airport hare population under control.

The animals were put in wooden crates and transferred to a nearby wildlife preserve, officials said.

Usually the hare hunt takes place overnight, when the airport's runways aren't terribly busy. But because there were so many hares this season, officials mounted a daylight capture so volunteers could better catch their bounding prey.

Blowing whistles and waving their arms frantically, the volunteers spooked the hares out of their holes and into nets erected around the airport.

Linate, which is Milan's second airport after Malpensa, reopened after a few hours at 8 a.m.

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.