As many as 2,000 rabbits scamper freely on the University of Victoria campus. But students shouldn’t get too attached. After a relocation plan failed last month, UVic is looking at other options to deal with its burgeoning bunny population. And with mating season fast approaching, officials are considering a solution they once hoped to keep off the table: a cull.
Sure they’re cute, but Richard Piskor, UVic’s director of occupational health, safety and environment, says rabbits also bring trouble. “The sheer volume of feces on the fields is remarkable,” he says. “So the potential for [human] infection is there.” Burrowing is another problem. Piskor said a staff member was injured while walking across a field pitted with rabbit holes; he ended up in the hospital with broken teeth. Then there’s the damage to trees, which are being debarked, and to the rabbits themselves. Piskor says an average of three a day are run over by cars.
All this inspired a pilot project to create “rabbit-free zones” on campus. Last December, UVic hired a wildlife contractor to capture and sterilize 150 rabbits, and find the animals new homes in the community. But after 51 rabbits were sterilized, UVic learned that individuals are not permitted by Ministry of Environment regulations to keep feral rabbits. The project was called off.
So on to Plan B. First, Piskor will launch a general awareness campaign about pet abandonment; the majority of UVic’s bunnies, he notes, are not of species native to Canada, which suggests they descended from rabbits bred as house pets. Others have more explicit ideas. “I eat UVic Rabbits” is the name of one Facebook group. “Too many rabbits? Buy more bullets,” suggests a letter writer to the Times Colonist. A tad severe, but Piskor says a variation of the latter option—albeit a humane cull—“remains a possibility.”