Easter Bunny, watch your back in Miami

 - January 25, 2008, 10:02 AM

Black-tail jackrabbits used to have a cushy home on the expansive grounds of Miami International Airport (MIA). But since construction started a year ago on a new 8,600-foot runway, hundreds of the rabbits have been displaced from their homes and are taking to the existing runways, chasing each other around at all hours. That is a real problem for airlines and all other aircraft operators who use the airport.

Running over rabbits is not the problem, but when an aircraft’s landing gear turns one of the jackrabbits to runway-kill, large turkey vultures move in to claim the meal. In the first two months of this year, four airplanes have hit vultures. Only 12 birdstrikes were reported in all of last year at MIA. The airport has assigned five staffers to full-time buzzard duty, using sirens, propane cannons and fireworks to scare them away from the easy rabbit meat. Jeff Bunting, chief of aircraft noise and environmental planning at MIA, said, “You can’t do just one thing. Birds get used to it and don’t get scared.”

Catching all the rabbits would be all but impossible. “They will be reproducing twice as fast as they are being captured,” said a representative from the city zoo. Sadly for the rabbits, the only remaining solution is to exterminate them. An airport spokesman said, “We’ve tried to find 100 solutions. We’ve exhausted all the options.”