When Easter bunnies aren’t so cute – Globe and Mail

Article credit and link to original: Rod Mickleburgh – Globe and Mail – published March 18, 2008

Rarely now do cowboys ride the range lassoing stray doggies. The 21st century is a tamer time. These days, what animal roundups remain are more likely to pursue lesser targets. Like rabbits.

In Kelowna on the weekend, several dozen rabbit wranglers took to the bushes and sidewalks on a small-game hunt they hoped would save as many of the hoppity critters as possible from a lethal cull some are proposing to rid the Okanagan city of its “rabbit problem.”

Using big fish nets, the rabbit-lovers managed to corral 25 of the furry little creatures, dispatching them immediately to local veterinarians for spaying and neutering.

“The rabbits have been running around free so it’s not that easy,” said Sinikka Crosland of the Responsible Animal Care Society, which organized the roundup.

“You have to be quick and watch which way they run.”

Kelowna is the latest Canadian city to be hit by a population explosion of rabbits, with controversies over what to do about the urban marauders proliferating almost as quickly as the rabbits themselves.

In the local paper, proffered solutions have included serving them up in tasty stews to be fed to the homeless or using the fur from slain rabbits for mitts and scarves.

Councillor Carol Gran, a former farm girl, was initially among those not squeamish about the possibility of an Elmer-Fudd-style “kill the wabbit” approach.

According to Ms. Gran, a rabbit cull should be put in perspective.

“We kill and butcher nice little calves, cows and chickens,” she said.

But yesterday, as council grappled with how best to resolve Kelowna’s bunny blight, Ms. Gran confessed that she had had a change of heart, thanks to some Grade 3 pupils.

“They asked what rabbits had ever done to me. That did it,” she said. “Logic is one thing, but it got me thinking: What kind of an example would we be setting for those kids [by carrying out a cull] It seems whenever wildlife gets in the way, we kill them.”

Council agreed to give the rabbit wranglers a chance to promote their more humane solution of catching and neutering the rabbits and offering them for adoption.

In the Lower Mainland suburb of Richmond, meanwhile, parks are so rife with rabbits that animal rescue groups have issued a special Easter plea for residents to leave cute, cuddly bunnies in the pet stores. Instead, celebrate the season with a chocolate egg, said Carol Reichert, executive director of the Richmond Animal Protection Society.

“I don’t know why we associate bunnies with Easter. It’s a silly thing, but each year it seems to get worse and worse,” she said, referring to the spike in sales of pet bunnies at this time of year.

What happens is that once-sweet Easter bunnies, if they are not neutered, become big, smelly rabbits by the time the seasonal focus switches to Thanksgiving turkeys. The thrill is gone. Stuck with bothersome pets which are no longer loved, parents often get rid of the rabbits in the closest park.

And what are rabbits good at? Making more rabbits.

“Our parks are full,” Ms. Reichert said. “You can go down to Minoru Park and you’ll see 100 rabbits there in just 20 minutes.”

Some pet stores, notably Petcetera, have stopped selling bunnies because of the abandonment problem, but others, according to Ms. Reichert, stock up at Easter.

“One store I visited had 32 different rabbits for sale. The rabbits are cheap. The stores make their money from the cages, bottles and other things that go with the pets.”

As many as 1,000 rabbits now occupy Minoru Park. Predators can’t keep pace.

“It’s hard when you consider they reproduce like rabbits,” said city spokeswoman Cynthia Lockrey. “I went on Google and found a single rabbit can produce 200 bunnies in its lifetime and the gestation period is just one month. I would have loved to have had a one-month pregnancy myself.”

Officials are asking anyone thinking of buying a bunny for Easter to think twice, she said.

“Rabbits are great, but they are not easy to care for. If someone is just purchasing one on a whim, and six months later, they’re dumping it in a park, that’s not going to help.”

City council has mulled a cull, but so far, has refrained from turning the park into a killing field.

Local miscreants, however, have not been so loath to take action. Several rabbits were recently picked off by teenagers with pellet guns and last Halloween a rabbit was blown up by firecrackers.

Nothing like that has happened in quiet Victoria, also overrun by rabbits.

There, a committee of academics has been struck to study the situation and issue a report. Committees tend to move slowly, more like tortoises than hares.

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