Published at The Gateway.com
Danielle Pope, CUP Western Bureau Chief
VICTORIA (CUP) — The University of Victoria is gearing up for another mass rabbit capture after previous attempts this year have reduced the population by only a few hundred.
The university now has two more trappings scheduled for the coming weeks, in an effort to reduce the population of rabbits by about 500. The long-term management plan aims to take the numbers from 1,600 down to 200, allowing the remaining rabbits to live in restricted zones on campus.
“Our plan right now is to create rabbit-free zones,” said Tom Smith, executive director of facilities management. “While we were able to reduce the population over the summer, there were many more bunnies born this season, so it’s hard to tell where we’re sitting now.”
At the end of August, the university trapped 69 rabbits and sent them to different sanctuaries on and around Vancouver Island. Another 40 were sent to a Texas facility. Currently, there is space for close to 400 more rabbits on the Island and 1,000 in Texas.
In May, the university euthanized 104 rabbits. The cull brought the university an injunction in July, however, after animal rights activist Roslyn Cassells and others took the university to court and they were ordered to cease.
The university appealed the decision and the injunction was lifted a month later, allowing facilities management to humanely trap the animals.
Smith said that until a further plan is developed, facilities management intends to follow court orders and will release all captured rabbits to B.C. Ministry of Environment-approved sanctuaries as long as there is room. Rabbits are spayed or neutered, and are supplied with a large outdoor pen.
Cassells said the university has worked well with placing the recently trapped rabbits in sanctuaries, but her hope is that they keep capturing at a rate that will allow adoptive facilities enough time to receive the animals. She fears too many rabbits at once could still mean those turned away would be euthanized.
In order for the university to keep even a few rabbits in restricted zones, it will likely face the same requirements — purchasing a $55-per-year permit from the ministry, tattooing the rabbits for identification, and providing them with the required services.
Smith explained the university plans on taking a break from the rabbit issue while school is in session and will resume the captures in November.
“As long as there are rabbits, people will just continue to drop more [unwanted pets] off here and we’ll be faced with this ongoing problem.”