Hazard hares are spared from airport shooting

b12-198 Reporter Catherine Varney has a go at flying a plane at Cranfield Flying School.
b12-198 Reporter Catherine Varney has a go at flying a plane at Cranfield Flying School.

Wildlife campaigners are celebrating after Cranfield University announced no hares would be shot in what has been described as a planned ‘cull’ of the species.

The university had been planning a week-long maintenance operation on Cranfield Airport, getting rid of scrubland on the site where brown hares found there would have been killed.

Brown hare

Brown hare

The plan follows a collision in December between a muntjak deer and a light aircraft.

Wildlife groups had dubbed the operation a ‘cull’, however the university denied that a cull of brown hares was due to take place.

Following pressure from campaigners the university, which owns the airfield site, has postponed the plan to shoot any hares until it has carried out a further study of the safety risks and population dynamics of the brown hare.

A spokesman for Cranfield University said: “Cranfield Airport is required by law to ensure that the airport is run safely in line with all airports in the UK.

“The airport has some areas of overgrown scrubland which reduces visibility of airport safety areas and also harbours various wildlife that are a potential hazard to aircraft.

“ The airport has planned maintenance to clear areas of scrubland over the coming week. The university, as owner of the airport, recognises the threatened status of the brown hare and requested that the airport authorities avoid shooting any brown hares during this operation.

“The airport has confirmed there will not be any shooting during this operation.”

Campaigner John Rimington, a volunteer with the Hare Preservation Trust, said: “I am very pleased with this news. I believe they will be carrying out a study so I just hope they won’t do it in the future. I just don’t think they realised about the brown hare and that DEFRA are in fact trying to increase its population.”