A rabbit round-up will be attempted next week in Glendale by staff from the Medicine River Wildlife Centre after more reports of freed pet bunnies in North Red Deer.
A couple of feral former pets have recently turned up dead. Todd Kelly, the wildlife centre’s facility manager doesn’t know the cause and didn’t want to speculate.
Crystal Van de ligt also hopes no one is being cruel to the rabbits — although she still thinks they are a nuisance and wants them out of her neighbourhood.
“I’m sick of them myself,” said Van de ligt, who recently spotted four male bunnies chasing a white female. ”They’ve been digging holes around my spruce trees.”
At least six feral rabbits are now regularly frequenting her yard on Gilmore Avenue. The bunnies have been wrecking her garden, burrowing beneath trees and have been chased by her chihuahua.
The concern is they will propagate, causing the kind of problems experienced by other Alberta communities. Freed domestic rabbit populations in Calgary have “exploded and Canmore is overrun,” said Kelly, who’s concerned predators have been moving into these centres to get an easy meal.
Bobcats are now living within Calgary city limits, while cougar and coyotes sightings are also becoming more common, presenting a danger to cats, dogs and small children.
High concentrations of rabbits can also create potential for disease, added Kelly, who’s waiting for more centre staffers to get back from holidays to determine the best day for the rabbit round-up in Glendale.
He anticipates by mid-next week five people will be able to corral the feral rabbits into a half-round pen and then close the gate.
The wildlife centre will later attempt to find new homes for these bunnies, just as they did last year, when a similar round-up trapped 13 former pets in North Red Deer.
Van de ligt believes no one should be allowed to sell pet rabbits that have not been spayed or neutered because of the danger this presents if the animals are released into neighbourhoods by irresponsible owners.
The City of Red Deer is making changes to its pet control bylaw, which is expected to go back before city council before the end of the year. Acting inspections and licensing manager Amy Fengstad said she’s currently investigating how other communities are handling the issue of released pets.
Domestic animals should never be released into neighbourhoods, but the challenge is finding out who the culprits are, she added.
Fengstad has, meanwhile, been in contact with Medicine River Wildlife Centre about rabbit concerns in Glendale, and looks forward to “gauging how large a problem this is.” So far, she added the city has not received a ton of calls from residents.