New strategy for rounding up rabbits at University of Victoria

Universities have sometimes had to hunker down and find solutions for rambunctious students using the campus as their personal playground. But rabbits?

VICTORIA — Universities have sometimes had to hunker down and find solutions for rambunctious students using the campus as their personal playground. But rabbits?

The fluffy creatures have been an unique and growing feature of the University of Victoria for at least 15 years but officials have finally decided it’s time contain the cottontails.

Following less successful campaigns to discourage the public from feeding the feral animals and appealing for them to stop abandoning their pets, the university is launching a non-lethal roundup.

Joining with a wildlife damage-control company called Common Ground, it has launched a pilot project to capture, remove, spay or neuter and relocate the rabbits to new homes.

The exact means of capture hasn’t yet been worked out, university official Richard Piskor said.

“It needs to be safe, it needs to be humane and it needs to not have another detrimental impact on other animals on campus,” said Piskor, director of occupational health, safety and environment.

“Recognizing some rabbits seem to have very little fear of humans, other ones seem a little more skittish, the question is how can we capture them in a way that meets that criteria.”

Piskor said the university is taking stronger measures because of a growing concern the rabbits are a health risk.

Unlike cute cartoon bunnies, real rabbits have been known to bite humans. They burrow into the ground, creating holes that turn into trip hazards. They damage plant life and they leave piles and piles of droppings.

“If we’ve got students or athletes or community people, and you slip and fall on the course of your play and cut yourself, there’s potential for infection,” Piskor said. That’s why the pilot project will aim to remove about 150 rabbits from the athletic fields as its top priority, he said.

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