Feral Rabbits on the agenda

imageA solution is being sought for a feral rabbit problem in the Crown Avenue neighbourhood in Cranberry.

The issue will be presented as Item 5.2 on tonight’s (Thursday, January 7th, starting at 7:00 pm), City Council agenda:

5.2 Report dated December 15, 2015 from the City Clerk regarding Feral Rabbits. Referred from Committee of the Whole December 15, 2015.

Recommendation: That the City adopt a three-way approach to deal with feral rabbits as follows:

  1. Engage a contractor to trap, humanely euthanize and dispose of feral rabbits;
  2. Launch a community communications plan to educate residents about the issues associated with feral rabbits; and
  3. Amend the Animal Control Bylaw by including prohibitions relating to feral rabbits and charging violators through a Municipal Ticket Information system.

The following information is from the City of Powell River Report on Feral Rabbits presented to Mayor and Council on December 15, 2015 by Marie Claxton, City Clerk.

BACKGROUND: In June 2015, Council received correspondence from a member of the public concerned about feral rabbits in the Crown Avenue area. Letters were written to residents on Crown Avenue and Drake Street advising not to feed the rabbits. Council directed staff to monitor the situation and report to Council in the fall.

STRATEGIC PRIORITY: Strategic Priority 2 – Governance

EXISTING POLICY: The Animal Control Bylaw does not address feral rabbits. It allows rabbit keeping in RAI, AI and A2 zones and includes regulations for keeping the rabbits in appropriate enclosures.

Firearm Regulations Bylaw generally prohibits the discharging of firearms within the municipality but does permit the Provincial Conservation Officer to give written permission to discharge a firearm within the municipality for a stated purpose at a stated time and with the concurrence of the RCMP.

ANALYSIS and IMPACT: It is estimated that there are 20-30 feral rabbits in the Cranberry Crown Avenue area. Staff previously delivered letters to all Crown area residents prohibiting feeding feral rabbits and has followed up to ensure the prohibition. However, there are many food sources readily available to feral rabbits, especially during the spring and summer, such as vegetable gardens, shrubs, and other vegetation.

SPCA Position: The BC SPCA recognizes that in communities throughout the province feral and abandoned rabbit colonies have proliferated, creating a public nuisance. It is estimated that a female rabbit can give birth every 31 days with up to 7 bunnies in each litter. It is the SPCA’s opinion that rabbit colonies in communities across BC were created through the irresponsible actions of owners releasing unsterilized pet rabbits. The SPCA organization endeavours to care for abandoned rabbits in their shelters, however, resources are limited and the demand for rabbit adoption is low.

The BC SPCA website states:

“The BC SPCA is fundamentally opposed to the inhumane culling of stray and feral rabbits, and encourages the use of non-lethal options for controlling rabbit populations through an integrated wildlife management approach.

This is the Society’s official position, however, the BC SPCA has no legal authority to stop the culling of these rabbits if the methods used are deemed to be “accepted practices” for wildlife control. Legitimate complaints accompanied by clear evidence of rabbits being willfully abused or are being killed using unacceptable methods that do not cause immediate loss of consciousness would be investigated by the BC SPCA under our enforcement powers.

The BC SPCA supports activities that aim to humanely trap, sterilize and relocate rabbits in suitable homes or well-resourced and managed sanctuaries that can provide for their needs for the remainder of their lives.

Unfortunately, as our experience tells us, sanctuaries are not always more humane options. Since 2005, the BC SPCA has had to intervene to address horrible conditions at two Victoria animal rescue groups that were unable to sustain the financial commitment of keeping hundreds of rabbits and other animals. Any animal rescue must prepare carefully by ensuring they have animal health and welfare management plans in place and the financial resources to provide high standards of care to their animals in the long run.”

The Powell River SPCA does not have a feral rabbit population control plan. The Powell River and District Branch Manager advises that the Powell River Branch does not have the budget to spay or neuter rabbits. They do not take in feral rabbits as they have limited space and the rabbits can’t be relocated. The Branch Manager indicated that she is not willing to take on culling the rabbits. They have only two staff members that can euthanize and it is not viable for them to take that on.

Conservation Office Position: The Conservation Office advises that feral rabbits are not native. The Ministry of Environment lists feral rabbits on the Schedule C species list. Schedule “C” animals can be captured or killed anywhere at any time in BC. A hunting licence is not required to hunt or kill feral rabbits. The Conservation Officer further advises that it is illegal to relocate feral rabbits and recommends hunting, trapping and euthanizing as an effective means of control and recommends a pest control company be engaged to cull the rabbits.

Animal Control Regulations: The City of Powell River Animal Control Bylaw regulates rabbits as follows:

30.     A person may keep in the City:

  • up to 12 poultry, none of which may be a rooster, or 20 rabbits on a RA1 zoned parcel under City of Powell River Zoning Bylaw 2100, 2006, where the lot area is less than 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres).;
  • up to 24 poultry, one of which may be a rooster, or 50 rabbits, on a RA1 A1 or A2 zoned parcel under City of Powell River Zoning Bylaw 2100, 2006, where the lot area is 0.2 (o.5 acres) or more; or
  • up to three poultry, none of which may be a rooster, on a R1, R2 and R3 zoned parcel under City of Powell River Zoning Bylaw 2100,2006.

31.    A person keeping poultry and rabbits pursuant to section 30 shall keep the poultry and rabbits in appropriate enclosures that:

  • provide adequate weather protection;
  • prevent the poultry and rabbits from wandering into neighbouring properties;
  • provide protection from natural predators;
  • are located within the rear yard of the property; and
  • are not less than 0.9 metres from a property line.

The City’s bylaw does not address feral rabbits. Some municipalities have more regulations for rabbits such as:

  • Prohibiting selling or giving away rabbits that have not been spayed or neutered;
  • Prohibited the harbouring of rabbits;
  • Prohibited keeping rabbits outside of their secure enclosed structure;
  • Authorizing the Pound Keeper to seize any rabbits at large;
  • Prohibiting intentionally feeding or leaving food out for feral rabbits;
  • Prohibiting releasing or abandoning a rabbit within the municipality.

There are some organizations that provide a sanctuary for captured feral rabbits. Staff has been unsuccessful in finding an organization in the area that would accept feral rabbits.

The regular City Council meeting takes place tonight, Thursday, January 7th, 2016, starting at 7:00 pm in Council Chambers at City Hall.

Info Creds: Marie Claxton, City Clerk, City Hall.

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