Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Rabbit woes date to '80s 

July 21, 2012 Judith Lavoie, Times Colonist   

The saga of the University of Victoria bunnies stretches back to the mid 1980s, when rabbit owners started abandoning their furry friends on campus, and the population exploded.

By the mid-'90s, groundskeepers were relocating rabbits to areas such as Mystic Vale, but neighbours complained.

In 2007, the university decided action was needed to stop legions of feral rabbits from eating vegetation and digging up the campus. The university explored ideas such as sterilizing the rabbits or trapping them and adopting them out as pets - something the province would not allow.

A public education campaign had little effect and, in 2008, a consultant's report said trapping was probably a necessary precursor to shooting. That set the scene for the battle of the bunnies and, in 2010, after a cull was decided on, the university was pitted against animal rescue groups, which tried to find suitable rabbit sanctuaries and persuade the province to give permits to move the rabbits.

More than 100 rabbits were euthanized before UVic agreed to a sanctuary program and 902 were turned over after being spayed or neutered. In March 2011, the campus was declared rabbit-free.

But even sanctuaries could not guarantee rabbit safety. Dozens were shot by an irate neighbour after escaping from a sanctuary in Coombs. Twenty were stomped to death by someone who broke into the sanctuary.

Comment: 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. Their stand is that once domestic rabbits are abandoned they become ‘wildlife.’ While there is no provincial coordinated approach on this matter, some jurisdictions are creating new bylaws to stop the over-breeding and abandonment of rabbits as well as developing urban wildlife strategies. The City of Richmond has indicated that it is committed to managing urban animal populations in a humane manner.

Note: It's 2016 and the City of Richmond has not actively addressed the issue of rabbit dumping, leaving it up to concerned citizens and rabbit welfare groups (all volunteers) to pick up the abandoned animals. Sadly, this is an ongoing cycle.

Read more: Rabbits and the Wildlife Act; provincial stand; Vancouver Island populations

Richmond full of discarded rabbits and their offspring