Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Town of Canmore slaughtering reputation as it slaughters feral rabbit population

November 15, 2012 Michael Platt, Calgary Sun

Forget Rocky Mountain vistas, gourmet restaurants and prime outdoor recreation — Canmore, thy name is blood. Bunny blood that is.  It’s a rabbit rub out — and once news of the slaughter spreads, Canmore, may as well change the town’s motto from “Do more, Play more, Live more” to “We Kill Fluffy Bunnies.” Fair? Maybe not.

But for the first time since Canmore’s feral rabbit invasion made the news in 2011, the town west of Calgary has resorted to euthanizing captured cottontails, rather then relocating them to sanctuaries. It’s an issue of space, and those trying to save the condemned bunnies have no more sanctuary room to offer, after managing to house 235 of the neutered prisoners during a roundup last spring.

With no one available to take the rabbits captured this fall, Canmore officials say there was no choice but to fire up the town’s officially-approved euthanization machine and start killing. “We feel really strongly that it’s the right thing to do in our community and the people who live here have clearly asked for it,” said Sally Caudill, communications manager for the Town of Canmore.

Last year, after the town voted to eradicate an estimated 2,000 domestic rabbits, the story made international headlines.

The feral bunnies are likely the result of some fool releasing pet rabbits into the wild, and the rabbits have been blamed for everything from garden destruction to attracting hungry coyotes to Canmore. But it’s one thing to trap and remove a cute pest, and another to systematically exterminate what many see as an adorable, harmless animal.

Word of the impending cull raised the ire of animal lovers far and wide, putting Canmore on the map in a way a tourism-dependant town should probably avoid. As well as news articles and seething comments, there were outraged calls and furious e-mails to the town hall from around the world, plus an anti-Canmore tourism boycott organized online. But then, just as rabbit rage hit full steam, the town caught a break.

Earthanimal Humane Education and Rescue Society (EARS), a B.C.-based rescue group, stepped forward to save the bunnies, with Calgary’s animal neutering clinic backing the plan. The result was every healthy bunny captured last spring being fixed and sent to one of two sanctuaries near Calgary, ensuring Canmore got rid of rabbits without the need for killing. But it wasn’t cheap, costing about $130 per rabbit in food and shelter, and space was limited.

Hence, when the fall rabbit trapping season started in October, Canmore turned on the euthanization machine — most use carbon dioxide — and started snuffing out bunnies.

“Nothing has changed from the Town of Canmore’s perspective, and we will work with any group that comes forward and meets our criteria,” said Caudill. “This year, no group has come forward.” Caudill acknowledges people will be upset, including many Canmorites who oppose trapping the rabbits. But she says the rabbits are a serious problem, and must be dealt with. “We did have a letter from someone this summer who saw a bear chasing a rabbit right through downtown,” said Caudill. “It really is a wildlife concern.”

Susan Vickery, director of EARS, says her organization is devastated to know rabbits are dying — it’s not clear how many have been culled so far — and they are desperate for more sanctuary space. “No one else has stepped forward to offer property to build and create sanctuary for the animals,” said Vickery. “I’ve been praying that more property owners will come forward.”

Meanwhile, Canmore will continue to trap and euthanize its furry troublemakers, stirring emotion and re-casting the mountain paradise as Canada’s bunny-kill capital.

Canmore may win when it comes to pristine gardens and fewer bears chasing rabbits through the streets, but when it comes to tourism, rabbit slaughter may prove a black eye for the mountain town. Shredded gardens or a ravaged reputation? That’s something Canmore might want to chew on. 

Comment: Rabbits lose through no fault of their own. The town hasn’t budged from its criteria for relocation and may very well lose tourism dollars as people stay away. We have also been told that an existing sanctuary offered to take some more rabbits but was refused by EARS. Same old, same old – personalities, power, and politics.