Too many rabbits running wild has become a problem for the city of Parksville on the east coast of Vancouver Island. Last month a petition was presented demanding that laws be drafted and the rabbits be killed. Yesterday it was reported that it was unlikely any action would be taken. The Parksville Qualicum Beach News quoted North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre officer Robin Campbell as saying he believed that it was too late to deal with the issue, as it was too late to deal with other non-native species including starlings, rats, gray squirrels and American bullfrogs.
“If there’s a solution I don’t have it, and the government certainly doesn’t have it,” Campbell said, adding that he is personally against killing them, “it’s not the rabbit’s fault.”
Conservation officer Steve Ackles explained that the European rabbits found on the Island are officially considered invasive, non-native species and are listed as Schedule C, which means they can be captured and killed anywhere, as long as they are dealt with humanely and following the hunting regulations.
Contrary to rumour, there are no native rabbits on Vancouver Island, only ones that have been introduced as pets and then let go or escaped.
Ackles said the only time they would deal with a call about rabbits is if people were killing or disposing of them in an unsafe manner.
Carmina Gooch of the Rabbit Advocacy Group of North Vancouver wrote to The News expressing the argument against measures like a cull.
“These animals were abandoned by irresponsible and thoughtless owners, and now some vocal and uninformed residents want these animals to pay the ultimate price? I suggest that officials consider non-lethal measures only. A perceived quick fix in the name of a kill is costly, both morally and financially, ineffective and ongoing.”
She also pointed out that while they may not be native, they are now part of the ecosystem and eradicating them would impact the species that now eat them.
She would rather see “common sense, proactive measures like enforcement, licensing or regulating breeders.”
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Last year, about 150 kilometers to the southeast, the University of Victoria in British Columbia’s capitol dealt with a similar rabbit overpopulation problem by allowing rabbit rescue groups to capture, spay and neuter, and relocate hundreds of bunnies that had been digging up the campus.
Many members of rabbit rescue and advocacy organizations have said that a province-wide ban on the sale of rabbits that have not been spayed or neutered would be a major step towards solving the problem.
UVIC rabbits photo by Steven Orr