A handful of feral rabbits ran around Cranberry cemetery yesterday, oblivious to City Council’s recent edict to cull their growing population.
Preparations are being made to cull the population of feral rabbits that is growing larger in the Cranberry area, according to a City Hall media release dated January 19, 2016.
City council has adopted a trap and euthanize policy for dealing with the rabbits rather than direct kill. The city is working with the Powell River SPCA to ensure the cull is conducted in accordance with the organization’s guidelines.
A feral animal is one that was formerly domestic that has been released into the wild. There are several cases throughout British Columbia where feral rabbit populations have grown large, creating a nuisance, and becoming difficult and expensive to control, said Patricia Wilkinson, City of Powell River’s acting city clerk. “City staff received authorization from city council to proceed with the cull,” she said.
“I have been trying to determine whether or not the rabbits could be used as food,” Patricia explained. “I have pretty much determined they cannot. I am finding out if we can at least use them for feed in a wildlife sanctuary.”
Wilkinson said she has permission from the regional district’s maintenance staff to trap rabbits in the cemetery. The Regional District, rather than the City, has the responsibility for the cemetery in Cranberry.
“It is important for people to realize that it is not helpful to feed wild rabbits,” Wilkinson said. “It is also important to reinforce that releasing rabbits into the wild can create a number of problems. For example, Conservation Officers identify rabbits as being an attractant for cougars or other predators to residential areas.”
The latest estimate of feral rabbit numbers from a resident was 37. In the middle of last year there were an estimated 25 feral rabbits roaming through Cranberry. “So we are definitely seeing an increase,” Wilkinson said.
For rabbit owners that no longer want the animals and release them into the wild thinking it will be a better life for them, it is not, according to Wilkinson. “There may be assumptions that domestic rabbits can fend for themselves in the wild but that is not necessarily the case,” she said.
Rabbits can develop diseases in the wild and one of the reasons they cannot be used as food for humans is they can be full of parasites.
Wilkinson said she is hoping the City will be able to begin the cull before the end of January. “My understanding is January to March is the best time to trap because there is less of a food source,” Wilkinson said. “This will hopefully help lead rabbits to the traps.”