One Langley environmentalist says Langley is heading for a domestic feral bunny boom and has nothing currently in place to prevent it.
Patricia Tallman stood in front of Township council recently, pleading for councillors to put rabbit-control measures into effect, much like those for canines lose in the community.
For farm owner Diane Unger, the problem is all-encompassing.
After a neighbour’s uncontained rabbits hopped their way onto her five-acre Aldergrove property, they multiplied at an alarming rate.
“It started with two little bunnies last year. They showed up one day near the sliding door of our living room,” Unger explained.
Initially, she thought it was sweet.
No more than three months later and Unger sees three litters, of up to 20 bunnies, scampering all around her south-facing property.
“It hurts me because I love animals so much,” Unger said.
But with repeated calls made to animal rescue services in the area, including Critter Care Wildlife Society and the Small Animal Rescue Society of B.C. (SARS BC), none had the capacity to help.
With dozens of rabbits now burrowed under Unger’s barn and amongst her gardens, the only suggestion she’s received has been to turn an area on her property into a rabbit sanctuary where the bunnies can be housed and cared for by Unger.
This advice was given by Rabbitats Rescue Society founder Sorelle Saidman, who runs a charity that encourages farm owners to house low-cost (spayed and neutered) rabbit colonies as a means of preserving their lives.
“We just don’t have the resources to take it on by ourselves,” Saidman admitted.
Aldergrove-based Small Animal Rescue Society of B.C. co-founder Lisa Hutcheon agreed that when domestic rabbits are found outdoors it is usually a case of owners abandoning their peskier-than-thought pets.
Hutcheon reports an overwhelming 70 per cent of SARS BC intake calls are for rabbits.
Their shelter is at capacity for domestic rabbits – “we really don’t have any extra room,” she explained.
“It’s frustrating to see people find our shelter and dump them outside of it,” Hutcheon added.
It’s also dangerous for the rabbits, she said, as they multiply fast, only to get preyed upon and killed by other animals in the wild.
SARS BC was denied community grant funding by the Townshipin 2016 and 2017, which helped the non-profit offset some of its costs from servicing the area in the years before, Hutcheon said.
“There’s just nowhere for them to go,” Hutcheon emphasized.
Female rabbits can reproduce with anywhere from four to 17 kits every month. And when rescuing an injured doe, “unless we perform an emergency spaying, we could end with 19 bunnies instead of one if the rabbit is pregnant.”
Township council reported after the meeting that Tallman’s request for wide-spanning rabbit-control measures throughout Langley will be forwarded to the engineering department for further review.
For now, Unger – whose lived on her Aldergrove property for more than eight years and SARS volunteers – are living lives overrun by rabbits.
“It never used to be like this,” Unger said.
“I have no answers.”