Town overrun by rabbits has deal with EARS

CANMORE — An Alberta mountain community that is overrun with rabbits has accepted an offer to relocate the animals, but some of the bunnies will still be killed.

CANMORE — An Alberta mountain community that is overrun with rabbits has accepted an offer to relocate the animals, but some of the bunnies will still be killed.

The town of Canmore says it is finalizing an agreement with Earthanimal Humane Education and Rescue Society to provide a sanctuary for its multitude of rabbits. The exact number is unknown, but some estimates suggest there are as many as 2,000 long-eared hoppers.

Spokeswoman Sally Caudill said the town of 12,000 on the eastern edge of Banff National Park, wanted to make sure the transfer of the rabbits was done responsibly.

The society, founded by Susan Vickery and going by the acronym EARS, is a volunteer-operated, registered charity that manages sanctuaries for abandoned farm animals and European domestic rabbits.

“We will give Susan as many rabbits as she’s capable of taking and then, after that, we will go ahead with the original plan, which is to trap and humanely euthanize and then send them to a wildlife rehab centre as feed,” Caudill said Wednesday.

Vickery said her group only has enough money so far for 150 rabbits to go to the sanctuary.

“I’m hoping that the community can keep up with donations and spare the lives of all the animals,” she said from her home in Coombs on Vancouver Island.

“I think it’s important that people know this isn’t the happy story they might think it is. Let’s hope it is.”

Calgary veterinarians are donating their time to spay and neuter the rabbits and City of Calgary bylaw services has offered the use of its clinic to do the operations.

Vickery, who runs a sanctuary for 600 rabbits, says her group has two donations of land for sanctuaries for between 25 and 150 rabbits in the Calgary area. She doesn’t want to give the exact location because people may dump unwanted animals there.

She said she doesn’t have a start date from Canmore. Caudill said that won’t be determined until after an agreement is signed.

Canmore recently rejected an offer from the Animal Rescue Corps (ARC), a non-profit animal protection organization based in Washington, D.C. ARC had offered to take care of the rabbit infestation by trapping, transporting, spaying and neutering the animals and then placing them in a new home.

Vickery said she was astounded that Canmore refused the offer.

“They offer the expertise, the professional resources — it’s all there. It’s a beautiful package just in time for Christmas.

“My Christmas wish is that they revisit that proposal in January.”

Caudill said there is no proposal from ARC, but Canmore will work with the group if it submits one that meets with the town’s criteria.