An audience of millions tuned into the BBC’s ‘Countryfile’ programme on Sunday evening to hear how Belfast International is home to dozens of Irish hares.
The airport is a safe haven for the beautiful, fleet-of-foot creatures who live cheek-by-jowl with passenger jets and apron operations vehicles.
‘Harry the Hare’ was featured resting, sprinting and tackling an aerial intruder in the shape of a crow – protecting its territory in a 1,000-acre site where there is an average density of hares ten times higher than in the wider countryside.
Belfast International Airport’s John Jeffers explained to presenter Matt Baker that the hare population had the run of the airport, aided by what the Civil Aviation Authority describe as a ‘long grass policy’ which is designed to deter birds but which benefits hares and their leveret offspring.
Hares are neither encouraged nor discouraged, but that hasn’t prevented them from flourishing in their Aldergrove sanctuary.
John told Matt: “They seem to like the noise and the vibrations – almost like a bit of a thrill for them!
“Passengers talk about them all the time. Hares are even in car parks, so when you’re parking your car you see them, and when you’re taxiing out to go on your holidays, you see them along the taxiways.”
Co-presenters Matt and Helen Skelton did their programme pay-off from the apron, clearly delighted to have seen the iconic Irish hare in a most unusual environment.
Our thanks to ‘Countryfile’ for bringing ‘Harry the Hare’ to a national, indeed international, audience.