Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Rabbits and the Wildlife Act  (April 2008)

Comment: The Environmental (Species and Public Protection) Statutes Amendment Act, 2008, contains nothing new specific to the European Rabbit - Oryctolagus cuniculus.   

Rabbits and the Wildlife Act  

A number of different species of rabbits are found in BC.  Native species include the wild White-tailed Jackrabbit - Lepus townsendii, Nuttall’s cottontail - Sylvilagus nuttallii and the snowshoe hare - Lepus americanus

Another species, the European Rabbit - Oryctolagus cuniculus, was introduced to BC by settlers.  European rabbits are alien to British Columbia and can be invasive.   

In general, alien species present a growing environmental and economic threat to British Columbia.  The Ministry of Environment, as part of its Alien Invasive Species Framework, is working to prevent and control the spread of alien species in BC.   

Schedule A of the Wildlife Act Designation and Exemption Regulation lists all species of the family Leporidae – hares and rabbits – as “wildlife."  This means that any rabbit in BC is “wildlife” and human interference with them is regulated under the Wildlife Act. 

Ownership in all “wildlife” is vested in the government of BC and a person does not acquire a right of property in any wildlife except in accordance with a permit or licence issued under the Wildlife Act or Game Farm Act or if they lawfully kill and comply with the wildlife.   

If a person by accident or for the protection of life or property kills wildlife, then that wildlife remains the property of the government. 

Generally it is an offence to do the following without a permit, licence or a regulatory exemption:  

  •  Hunt, take, trap, wound or kill wildlife.
  •  import live wildlife, or export wildlife or parts.
  •  traffic in live wildlife or wildlife meat.
  •  ship or transport wildlife in BC or engage another person to ship or transport in BC wildlife or parts.
  •  attempt to capture wildlife.
  •  possess wildlife.

However, please note that section 17.02 of the Wildlife Act General Regulation states that a person who possesses a quail, pheasant, partridge, wild turkey or European rabbit that was hatched or born, and raised, in captivity is exempt from

(a) section 22 of the Act, - offence to traffic without a permit

(b) section 33 of the Act, - offence to possess without a permit

(c) section 37 of the Act, - offence to transport without a permit

(d) section 21 of the Act, - offence to import and export without permit (but this exemption applies only if the import or export is from or to another province in Canada).

European rabbits are also found in Schedule C of the Wildlife Act Designation and Exemption Regulation.  Schedule C is a list of alien and “nuisance” wildlife that are managed differently from other wildlife.   

There are important legal exemptions that apply to European Rabbits because they are listed in Schedule C.  These exemptions are listed below: 

Hunting and Lethal Trapping of Rabbits 

  • It is not an offence for a person to hunt, take, trap, wound or kill rabbits at a time not within the open season. Anyone who does this on private land must have the permission of the landowner or occupier and cannot hunt, take, trap, wound or kill rabbits in a manner prohibited by law.
  • A person can hunt, take, trap, attempt to capture, wound or kill rabbits for the protection of their property or on property owned or occupied by that person or their spouse, parent, guardian or child without a licence or a permit.
  • A person can hunt, trap, or kill rabbits on crown or private land without a licence or permit.
  • A person under 19 can hunt rabbits unsupervised for the protection of their property or on property owned or occupied by that person or the spouse, parent, guardian or child. 
  • A person who hunts rabbits for the protection of their property or on property owned or occupied by person or the spouse, parent, guardian or child, does not have to remove the edible portions of the carcass of killed rabbits.
  • If a person injures a rabbit that person must kill the rabbit
  • If a person kills a rabbit, by accident or for the protection of life or property, he or she does not need to report the killing to an officer.
  • A person commits an offence if they trap within 200m of a dwelling unless they are using a live box trap or an egg trap (egg traps are designed for capturing raccoons).

Comment: Once in the wild, European rabbits, Oryctolagus cuniculus are regulated as wildlife under the BC Wildlife Act, listed as Schedule C of the Wildlife Act Designation and Exemption Regulation. Therefore, a permit or licence is not required to kill them. (these are domestic animals and their offspring that have been abandoned by ‘owners.’)

Non-lethal (Live) trapping and relocation (nuisance trapping):

·         A person can use a trap, other than a leg-hold trap, to trap rabbits on land owned or occupied by that person or with the permission of the owner or occupier of private land, if: 

(a)      the rabbit is transported and released on Crown land or on that person’s private property,

(b)      is possessed for not more than 24 hours  

(c)      and is taken a distance no greater than 10 kilometres from where the rabbit was trapped, unless a further distance is specified by an officer.

Live Nuisance Trapping: Vancouver Island and Other Islands Special Rules

A person is not allowed to live trap and then release European Rabbits at a distance greater than one km from the site of capture in Management Units 1-1 to 1-13 on Vancouver Island, or on an island in any body of water in the province, other than the island on which the wildlife was captured unless prior approval is given by an officer.
Prepared by Felice Griffiths and Scott Black, Fish and Wildlife Branch
Ministry of Environment  http://www.leg.bc.ca/38th4th/1st_read/gov29-1.htm

BC Ministry of Environment  http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/cos/info/wildlife_human_interaction/docs/nuisance_fauna.html#rabbits (has since been deactivated) 

Nuisance Fauna – Rabbits & Hares

*       Rabbits can consume approximately 1/2 kg of green vegetation daily.  Significant damage can occur when rabbits are attracted to orchards, gardens or agricultural crops.

*       Damage to gardens, ornamental trees or agricultural crops usually occurs when the fixtures are located in close proximity to deciduous forests (rabbit habitat).

*       Damage can also occur when natural rabbit food is scarce or has dried up in hot weather.

*       Installing woven wire mesh fencing or electrical fencing can prevent rabbit damage.

*       Placing wire mesh around individual trees can protect small ornamental trees.

*       The fungicide, Thiram has been registered in the United States as a squirrel and rabbit repellent.  Thiram is used in the golfing and Turf business.

*       In areas that area open to hunting and the discharge of firearms or bows, rabbits can be harvested by hunters possessing a valid BC hunting licence.

*       Municipal bylaws may prohibit the use of traps, firearms and bows.  Contact the local bylaw department.

*       If you are experiencing property damage as a result of rabbits, contact a licensed pest control company.  Pest control companies can be found in the yellow pages.

Source: BC Government: Other Common Conflict Species

Note: The B.C. Wildlife Act was under review in 2007, and the public was invited to submit comments. The European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is a domestic animal, and, as such, it was requested that the definition of "domestic animal" be amended in Section 26 (2) under Regulation 8 to include this species. Domestic animals are species that have been selectively bred by humans over hundreds or thousands of years, in order to create animals that are tame and notably different from their wild ancestors. They are "made fit for human environment." 

Comment: October 2010 Government has created a new ministry, Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO). It has picked up two dozen responsibilities, including wildlife management. Like the MoE, FLNRO considers feral rabbits to be invasive, non-native wildlife species and lists them under Schedule C of the Designation and Exemption Regulation of the Wildlife Act

Many of the responsibilities -- laid out in a 44-page Order in Council document -- were pulled from existing ministries responsible for forestry, energy, the environment, aboriginal relations, and agriculture and lands. The new ministry is to work in an integrated way with the ministries that remain responsible for those areas, a government document suggests. To many, it appears that industry will get “anything it wants.” [The Tyee 10/29/10]

Related: BC is home to one native species of Hare, the Snowshoe Hare and 2 species of rabbits, the White-tailed Jackrabbit and Nuttall's Cottontail. Vancouver Island, however, has no native rabbits or hares. Apart from the Eastern Cottontail, the only other species of rabbit found on Vancouver Island is the introduced European Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus. This single species is the ancestor to 80 varieties of Domestic rabbit.

Read more: Wildlife Act Review

Update 2012: Unwanted rabbits are everywhere; San Juan Island; Parksville debates matter

Update 2012: Nanaimo feral domestic rabbits abound, gov't "experts;" VIU study; Sidney group

July 21, 2012 UVic rabbit woes date to '80s

March 2013: According to the FLNRO Ministry, domestic or agricultural animals are not listed as wildlife within the Wildlife Act (the Act) as these animals are largely managed through other legislation such as the Community Charter, Livestock Act, or Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. 

Read more: July 30, 2014 Recap of our meeting with Hon. Mary Polak

May 2017 BC's FLNRO has been renamed Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development

2018 BC Wildlife Act