Hare deaths at Dublin Airport studied in bid to reduce 'runway roadkill'

Hare deaths at Dublin Airport studied in bid to reduce 'runway roadkill'

The number of wildlife-aircraft collisions are increasing by up to 68% annually in some countries, and has caused damage that has cost in excess of $103m in the United States alone over a 30-year period, a study found. File picture: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile

Researchers have identified the times of the day when hares are more likely to be struck by aircraft at Dublin Airport — and believe their findings may help reduce costly "runway roadkill" incidences around the world.

A study led by Samantha Ball, an Irish Research Council scholar at the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Bees) at UCC, used motion-activated camera traps to collect activity data on the hare population inhabiting the airfield at Dublin Airport, and used the data to identify when hare strikes, or wildlife-aircraft collisions, were more likely to occur.

These new findings were published on Wednesday in the journal Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation.

The new study follows a paper published last year in which a team lead by Ms Ball found the number of wildlife-aircraft collisions are increasing by up to 68% annually in some countries, and has caused damage that has cost in excess of $103m in the United States alone over a 30-year period.

“Firstly, we identified two distinct time periods of increased strike risk, generally around sunrise and in the hours approaching midnight,” Ms Ball explained.

“Of course, with varying day length throughout the year in Ireland, there is some seasonal variation here. We also found that hare strike times at the airfield were closely associated with the times of day when hares were most active at the airfield but when aircraft movements were relatively low.

“This tells us that we can focus strike prevention efforts — such as scaring tactics and runway patrols — directly onto the hare population themselves as opposed to facing the near-impossible task of altering aircraft activity, in order to reduce hare strike events.

“This work has allowed us to identify periods throughout the day, and year, when strike risk with hares may be higher, indicating when strike prevention efforts can be increased to deter hares from the active runway. 

"The research can also be applied to other airfields, as although we focus here on the Irish hare at Dublin Airport, this method can be used to identify periods of increased strike risk with ground-dwelling species of concern worldwide, such as deer and large carnivore species,” she said.

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