Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Feral rabbits to get new home at Ladner Harbour Park 

January 10, 2012 South Delta Leader 

The rabbit population that resides around Delta Municipal Hall will soon be moving on to new hopping grounds. 

On Monday night (Jan. 9), council endorsed a feral rabbit management plan that will see the wild bunnies in the civic precinct captured, sterilized, identified and released just a few kilometers away at the waterlocked Ladner Harbour Park. 

Municipal staff developed the plan to put an end to the property damage, and health and safety concerns posed by the growing colony. The estimated 500-plus rabbit population is the result of generations of abandoned pets. 

"These bunnies do a lot of damage," said Ken Kuntz, director of parks, recreation and culture. He said the floppy-eared critters devour vegetation, burrow large holes, and undermine the foundation of buildings. And rabbit droppings show up everywhere. 

"In our swimming pool, in the Delta School District building, in the hospital, in the police station—everywhere, this feces is being tracked about," Kuntz said. He also expressed concern about the safety of children who have been seen chasing rabbits into the road. "We believe it's time for action. The rabbit population is growing and it's migrating at a tremendous rate," Kuntz said, noting they have been spotted as far east as Holly Park. 

Under the $60,000 management plan, animal control officers, Delta Community Animal Shelter staff and volunteers plan to "humanely" capture some 20 to 25 rabbits per week over the next five months. Local veterinary clinics have committed to providing sterilization services at a reduced cost in support of the program. 

The relocation site, Ladner Harbour Park, is a historical feral rabbit habitat with an onsite caretaker. "We would be providing (the rabbits) with ongoing feeding and support through the shelter and through our volunteers," said shelter manager Sarah Lowe. 

Lowe said now is the time to act since rabbits breed between February and October, with most babies arriving in spring and summer. "The impact of doing nothing will effectively see the colony grow 20 per cent every year and doubling in five years," she said. 

Chief Administrative Officer George Harvie said part of the reason staff chose Ladner Harbour Park as a relocation site is because it is isolated and far away from farmers crops. "You can see the population of these rabbits moving closer to our agricultural areas and that is why time is of the essence," he said. 

Harvie previously wrote to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations seeking solutions to the bunny problem. The Ministry recommended either trapping and euthanizing the rabbits, or exporting them to a sanctuary outside the province.

"The Ministry's options, quite frankly, are not acceptable," said Kuntz. He said the public would never accept a cull, and "the capacity is just not there" to export the bunnies out of B.C. 

Staff will come back to council in five months to review their progress. The next phase of the management plan would be a public education program aimed at discouraging future abandonment of rabbits. Staff also plan to introduce a bylaws to restrict the sale of unsterilized rabbits in pet stores.

Comment: Please send a short letter or comment to the media in support of Delta’s plan. Carmina Gooch, posted to News 1130: Doing it right! Thank you Delta! A common sense humane plan. This is an excellent model for other municipalities to follow.

Provincial government policy dictates an onerous and costly bureaucratic permit process for rescue groups or anybody else wanting to help the homeless rabbits. In response to a recent query to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Resource Operations we were told that “Sterilization and release would require a permit to possess the rabbits while they are being sterilized and a permit to release them. The Ministry would not support this as the rabbits would still be causing problems for landowners, native species and would perpetuate the notion in the general public that abandoning unwanted pets is OK.” It was further stated that “Currently, the Ministry does not support possession of the rabbits. We would rather they be humanely euthanized.”

Thankfully, the Corporation of Delta has decided to disregard the government’s ideas, and to proceed with its ethical and well thought out humane management plan.    

The respondents to the Province newspaper’s poll voted over 85% in support of Delta’s rabbit sterilization program.