Bunnies along Trans Canada Highway need to find a new home.

Bunnies along Trans Canada Highway need to find a new home.

Highway not a safe haven for View Royal rabbits

Local group looking to relocate rabbits to sanctuary

Rabbits, being rabbits, are quickly overrunning the grassy refuges they’ve been living on alongside the Trans Canada Highway in View Royal.

The population has increased so much that efforts are now being made to move the animals to a new sanctuary.

“There’s a group hoping to capture them, spay them and neuter them and ship them off to a sanctuary,” said View Royal Mayor David Screech.

Before the rabbits can make the trip to their final pasture, they need somewhere local where they can recover from their sterilizing surgery.

Hillside Veterinary Hospital veterinarian Laurie Gaines is working with Erin Gray, a recent University of Victoria law graduate, to undertake this project.

Gray got involved in the project over a year ago when she began doing legal research on what the process would entail last summer.

“People feel quite a connection with these rabbits,” said Gray.

She said they have six veterinarians, 10 technicians and one facility organized to do the procedures but require permits from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources before they can proceed.

“There’s been lots of response that’s very positive,” she said, adding that a number of people have come forward with suggestions and offering spaces for the rabbits to recuperate after their operations. The group still has to vet these offers to find the most suitable space.

The group is also looking to address some of the underlying issues and preventing this situation from happening again. Gray said they are looking into changing bylaws that would prevent un-spayed or un-neutered rabbits from being sold as pets.

The project is currently being funded by donations.

“If it works and there’s no public money involved, we think it’s a great idea,” Screech said, noting the municipality is more than willing to work with the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on the issue.

So far, Screech said, efforts to do so have had little result. The ministry did put up “no trespassing” signs but they’re not having any visible effect.

People are still stopping on the medians to feed the animals or even to let their children play with the rabbits.

The situation has become a safety concern for the municipality.

“We just feel a solution needs to be found,” Screech said.

The other issue is, as the rabbits population grows literally by leaps and bounds, the animals are moving beyond the medians and starting to turn up throughout View Royal.

“The municipality can’t really do anything,” Screech said, about the fact the medians are on provincial land and the rabbits are technically classified as wildlife.

Residents can request live animal traps from the Capital Regional District and turn over any captured rabbits to the CRD Animal Shelter.

Until recent developments, View Royal has so far escaped wildlife controversies regarding deer that have troubled nearby municipalities, including Oak Bay and Central Saanich.

If you would like to get involved with the project you can email viewroyalrabbits1@gmail.com.

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