When you drive up to the Edgemont condo complex, you see rabbits — lots and lots of rabbits.
Dodging your car, baby rabbits by the handful are dashing under decks while others stretch out and sun themselves on the lawn.
Seems like a good life, if you are a feral rabbit of the domestic variety. But the animals are creating problems at the properties where they squat, often posing as road hazards, attracting predators, and dining on flower garden finds.
Edgecliffe Estates resident, Laurel Simonson, says notices have been put up asking residents not to feed the animals while assuring them none taken away in traps by pest control workers are being harmed.
She isn’t sure what that means but heard they are being relocated to “a happy farm outside the city.”
The owner at Cal-Rid Exterminators, the company hired to relocate the wild animals, declined to comment for this story.
They’re cute but can be quite the nuisance
Simonson says many residents don’t like the rabbits hanging around while others enjoy them and leave food out. She and her sister took one of the animals to a vet to see if it was fit for adoption. She was told none of them are because they could carry disease.
“Vets won’t take them, so it was released and they have just been multiplying, like rabbits,” she says. “I feel sad about it. Some get hit by cars and someone saw one devoured by a bobcat.”
Domestic feral rabbits run rampant in numerous communities, including Seton, Auburn Bay, and Walden, to name a few.
Simonson says it is heartbreaking to know the rabbits aren’t being cared for by any agency or government, instead being considered wild animals which are left to fend for themselves.
What officials have to say on the matter
City of Calgary spokesperson Kaila Lagran says “rabbits are considered wildlife and would fall under the jurisdiction of Alberta Fish and Wildlife.”
But the Fish and Wildlife website points back to the city saying, “if you are concerned about domestic rabbits that are loose in your community, contact your municipality, local animal control agency or humane society.”
The Humane Society’s mandate, however, is to care for domestic rabbits which are surrendered, seized for cruelty or injured, says Brad Nichols, director of operations and enforcement.
However, the organization doesn’t take in strays and even if they wanted to, it’s not an option.
“The emergence of the Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus identified in several Alberta locations means that we need to protect the animal population we are mandated to care for,” Nichols explains.
“Compounding matters, these semi-feral domestic rabbits, not unique to Seton, are generations removed from domestication and don’t fare well in a shelter setting because they have lived their entire lives as wildlife.”
The public is best to treat these colonies as wildlife and leave them alone, he adds.
It’s an animal welfare issue
As such, rabbits appear to live in no man’s land — the very reason why a rabbit sanctuary is needed, says Gizelle Becker, founder of Wild Rose Rabbit Rescue.
Not only are the bunnies-at-large left prey to predators like coyotes and bobcats but she knows of many harmed, mutilated or killed and babies being poked and prodded by curious children.
“It’s a huge animal welfare issue but there is no protection for rabbits whatsoever,” Becker says.“I think it’s really important to find solutions to their population that isn’t culling them or causing harm to them.”
The rescue, founded in January 2021, currently has 22 rabbits, domestic feral ones who get a vet check before being given a chance to prove to be pet-quality and adoptable.
Becker says she is working with others sharing the same concerns to set up a sanctuary in Balzac where they can live out their lives in a safe place.
She says it’s disappointing that the recent review of animal city bylaws didn’t take rabbits into account and says some sort of spay and neuter program might help lower populations. Maybe.
“If you miss just two rabbits the problem recycles over again,” she says.
A warning ahead of Easter weekend
Rabbits can live up to 10 years when domesticated but it’s a different story in the wilds of the big city.
“Rabbits normally live only 12 to 15 months and in that time have approximately three litters of up to six young,” according to Fish and Wildlife. “In the city, rabbit and hare populations are kept in check by vehicles, weather, predators and other mortality factors.”
On a side note; If you are looking to get a rabbit for yourself or someone else for Easter. Don’t.
“It is never a good idea to get a pet impulsively,” Nichols says. “They are a long-term commitment and can have unexpected financial implications. Rabbits, often marketed as a good starter pet, are actually not. They need to be handled very carefully and require specialized care.”
If you truly are ready to bring a bunny home, there are nearly a dozen up for adoption at the Calgary Humane Society right now.
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