No bunny business: Roundup relocates rabbits to safety

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Austin Harvill
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
In an ever-changing climate of adversity, Aviano Air Base personnel keep their eyes peeled for hazards that may harm the community and mission.

Despite their vigilance, one hazard has breached the base's guarded walls -- bunnies.

"Once or twice a year, we turn our attention to the flightline's resident wildlife population," said Master Sgt. Corey Stewart, a flight safety member for the 31st Fighter Wing’s Safety Office. "Rabbits pose a safety concern since they reside right by the jets during takeoff and landing."

To prevent any "hare"-y situations, safety members coordinated with base units and the local community to gather more than 300 volunteers, who then stretched side-by-side across the 1,000-foot-wide flightline to flush out the rabbits.

"The volunteers walk the length of the flightline, which spooks the rabbits," Stewart said. "Opposite of the volunteers is a net, where the rabbits harmlessly tangle themselves up."

Italian State Forestry Corps members, who are similar to game wardens or wildlife protectors, then untangle, tag and contain the rabbits for later release away from the base.

"The rabbits are handled very gently, since they are scared," Stewart said. "Only the (Forestry Corps personnel) relocate the rabbits; we simply corral them."

The volunteers' responsibility to corral the rabbits was not simply a matter of walking in an unbroken line. For some, that responsibility manifested itself suddenly.

"Sometimes the rabbits wouldn't spring away until they were a few feet from us," said Senior Airman Frank Cheney, a 31st FW adverse action paralegal. "They are really hard to see, so you would hear people yelp and see a rabbit dart toward the net."

Anticipating the excitement, the 31st Force Support Squadron fitness center and chapel staff filled the volunteers with free hot chocolate, tea and coffee before the event.

"I would definitely volunteer again because we were taken care of, and it is a pretty humorous task," Cheney said. "We captured rabbits to save them from jets. When I told my family about that, they thought I was speaking in code because it sounded so crazy. You definitely don't hear about that kind of stuff when you sign up to serve."

While Elmer Fudd himself may shed a proud tear for the volunteers, Stewart said they truly ensured mission success.

"Our vigilant volunteers corralled 26 rabbits at the end of the day" Stewart said. "With those critters relocated, we can safely use the flightline, continue to perform our mission and keep our furry neighbors out of harm's way."