Rabbits on the campus at the University of Victoria.

Rabbits on the campus at the University of Victoria.

Animal advocates applaud plan to eliminate all rabbits from UVic campus

Rabbits will soon be merely a memory at the University of Victoria.

On Thursday, the school decided to change its tack on the animals that have for decades been an unavoidable part of life on campus. Instead of trying to maintain a population of 200 rabbits inside Ring Road, UVic will re-locate all existing animals and, as of March 1, will euthanize any new ones abandoned on school grounds.

“We learned some lessons after we put out the first rabbit management plan,” said Tom Smith, director of facilities management. That first plan intended to see all but 200 of the rabbits removed.

The change of plans came after an outpouring of support from the community that saw 823 of the lagomorphs trapped, sterilized and shipped to sanctuaries throughout the province as well as to Texas.

While initial estimates, earlier this year, put the rabbit population on campus at upwards of 1,600, Smith said the removal of 925 since spring (102 were euthanized in May) helped reduce the remaining numbers.

“The combination of the lack of reproduction combined with the removal of so many rabbits — and the impact the owls and hawks have had — has been really significant,” he said.

Only about 50 rabbits are left. They will be shipped off to sanctuaries within a few weeks before breeding season begins and removal permits expire.

Laura-Leah Shaw has been a fervent advocate for the relocation of the rabbits and has helped fund and transport 230 of the rabbits to Whitehouse, Texas.

The advocate says she’s “delighted” by the decision to remove all the rabbits, but would like to see a bit of financial support from the university.

“We saved them from a public relations nightmare,” Shaw said, referring to the initial management plan that was geared towards a cull, rather than relocation. “The community stepped up with money to save the rabbits. The university had to have budgeted for the alternative, so, we’re thinking, in all fairness, they could help us out.”

Shaw says she’s personally taken out a $25,000 line of credit to fund the relocation project. “If we had to wait to gather the cash, they’d be dead by now.”

Smith says the university did save money through relocation, both in the short- and long-term, as groundskeeping tasks, like vegetation upkeep and burrow reparation, will no longer be an issue.

But a rabbit-free campus doesn’t sit well with those who, for as long as they remember, have known UVic as a home for rabbits.

“I remember coming here on field trips (in elementary school) and playing with the bunnies,” said Tyler West, who works on campus. “They used to be everywhere. You’d just look out the window and there were bunnies as far as the eye could see. But I haven’t seen a bunny in a while. It’s kind of sad they’re all going to be gone because they’re part of UVic’s identity.”

The director of facilities acknowledges many students and faculty will miss the rabbits. But he also thinks people will be quick to move on once they get beyond their sentimentality.

“I think people will enjoy the fact that the grass grows and there’s not rabbit poop anywhere,” Smith said.

As of March 1, any rabbits caught on campus will be removed and euthanized.

“We need to do that because we need to let people know it’s not OK to drop your unwanted pets off at UVic anymore,” Smith said.

Sara Dubois, manager of wildlife services with the B.C. SPCA, supports UVic’s decision to become rabbit-free. She says the killing of any future rabbits an “unfortunately reality.”

“As a community, we need to keep responsibility of our pets. We can’t just leave them in an environment where they’re not prepared to live a good quality life,” she said.

On a municipal level, Saanich is currently looking at bylaw amendments that could prevent sales of unsterilized rabbits in pet stores. The options will go to council in the spring.

In November 2009, Oak Bay amended its bylaws to ban abandoning rabbits in the district.

Last summer, the City of Victoria began looking at overhauling its animal control bylaws, including possibly prohibiting the sale of rabbits. Recommendations will be made this year.

“Obviously the problem started with a couple of rabbits being dumped, so the assumption is the problem will return if we don’t take the initiative to continually manage it,” Smith said. “We’re very relieved we can focus on things other than rabbits now.”

kslavin@saanichnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sooke plans to begin construction of the $4.9-million Church Road corridor project this summer. (Kevin Laird - Sooke News Mirror)
Sooke hopes to start Church Road Corridor project this summer

Road upgrade includes a roundabout, sidewalks, bike lanes and boulevards

Pacific Institution in Abbotsford. (Black Press Media file photo)
Inmate with ties to Victoria dies in Abbotsford institution

Brodie Bingley, who was sentenced for aggravated assault in Maple Ridge died April 13

B.C. Centre for Disease Control maps showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 4-10. (BCCDC image)
Parksville-Qualicum passes Nanaimo in new COVID-19 cases

Greater Victoria had more new cases than any other Island area: B.C. Centre for Disease Control

An online panel discussion on April 16 is set to discuss the benefits of advance care planning. (Black Press Media file photo)
Online panel to discuss planning for death with Greater Victoria residents

Advance care planning allows people’s wishes to be respected even if they can’t speak for themselves

The site of the proposed rental housing development at 2197 Otter Point Rd. (District of Sooke)
District of Sooke approves development with 77 rental units

New parking lot for John Phillips Memorial Park included in project

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you have a plan in place in the event of a tsunami?

Tsunamis have claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people between 1998… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 13

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

The District of Sooke will continue to flower with Communities in Bloom. (Pixabay)
Sooke will bud but not bloom in provincial competition

Council scales back participation in Communities in Bloom

An armed officer walks outside Cerwydden Care on Cowichan Lake Road near Skinner Road Wednesday, April 14 around 5:30 p.m. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Police standoff at Duncan apartment ends peacefully

Officers surround building as homeowner held in apartment for nearly four hours by adult son

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Hwy. 4 was shut down in both directions for 10 hours on March 23 as a rock bluff was blasted as part of Kennedy Hill’s ongoing construction. Commuters can expect five more 10 hour closures on five consecutive Wednesdays beginning April 28. (Photo courtesy of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Five 10-hour Pacific Rim highway closures planned in the next 6 weeks

Closures needed for rock blasting as part of the Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement project.

Bulldogs forward Stephen Castagna flips the puck into the Clippers zone during a game on Oct. 24. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Island BCHL game postponed due to ‘potential positive’ COVID-19 test

Nanaimo Clippers team suspends activities, players isolating pending further test results

Most Read