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Denver airport parking lots under siege -- by rabbits

February 15, 2013|By John M. Glionna

Security at Denver International Airport aims to protect cars from vandalism and theft, but there's a new threat at the its expansive parking lot.

Ravenous rabbits.

Officials say the animals are causing hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars in damage to cars by devouring the wires under the hood.

Officials with the U.S. Agriculture Department's Wildlife Services in the Denver area are removing at least 100 rabbits every month, but the problem persists. The airport is surrounded by prairie, and the rabbits are seeking warmth and food in the parked vehicles.

"They come to the recently driven cars for warmth, and once they're there, they find that many of the materials used for coating ignition cables are soy-based, and the rabbits find that quite tasty," Wiley Faris, a spokesman for the nearby Arapahoe Autotek repair center told the Los Angeles Times.

Faris said it's not just a problem at the airport but at nearby apartment buildings. "A lot of people have called us," he said. "They return to their cars and either they won't start or they don't run well because the wires are all chewed up."

He said the perpetrators are easily identified by the fur and pellets left behind.

Repair costs, which can run into the thousands of dollars, are often not covered by insurance. Airport officials say parking permits clearly state they are not responsible for any damages, which means the repairs are the responsibility of the driver.

In the morning, the landscape is awash in rabbits.

"I see at least dozens every morning. They go hide under the cars, and the cars are warm," airport shuttle driver Michelle Anderson told KCNC-TV.

Laura Coale, a spokeswoman for the airport, said officials have only received a handful of claims.

"We have 53 square miles of land," she told The Times. "We had 4.3 million parking transactions in 2012, and we only received three claims. People are not coming to us. They go to the newspaper and say their damage happened here. Why here, versus any other place in Colorado?"

Still, officials are scrambling for solutions, which include more fencing, perches for hawks and eagles and something a little more out of the ordinary.

Coyote urine. They're coating car wires with the substance.

"Predator urine is a good deterrent," Faris told The Times. "Either coyotes or foxes. And you can pick it up at any professional hunting shop. That stuff can take care of the critter damage pretty quick."

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