Herds of feral rabbits at threat in Greater Victoria

Matter of time before the rabbit hemorrhagic disease reaches the South Island

The expansion of feral rabbits in Greater Victoria has reached Royal Oak.

And with the rabbits there are growing problems.

Within the last year a herd of about 10 of the wee hoppers has developed in Royal Oak and live between the Pat Bay Highway and the St. Vincent de Paul campus, feasting on the manicured grass of the latter.

It’s just one of the many rabbit herds in the region.

“They’re everywhere,” said Don Brown, CRD’s chief bylaw officer, which oversees the head of animal control. “It only takes a couple of pairs before you get [a herd of] 40 or 50. As the saying goes, ‘rabbits multiply like rabbits.’”

They’re known as feral rabbits for a reason. They’re not native to Canada and are the result of European rabbits brought to B.C. as pets, and then abandoned. As rabbits do, they multiply quickly with several gestation periods in a year.

They’re the rabbits that were famously once prolific at the University of Victoria before being culled and removed. They’re the rabbits that have pestered farms up and down the Peninsula and can be seen at various points along both the Galloping Goose and Lochside trails. They’re the rabbits that have frequented View Royal, famously crossing over to the Helmcken overpass meridian (removed as a health hazard in 2016), and now they’re spreading into other areas.

“The shelters are full of rabbits, there aren’t enough homes for rabbits. If people knew that maybe they’d educate themselves,” Sara Dubois, chief scientist, BC SPCA.

However, it’s rare that they’re culled (it has happened) and while it might seem as though they’re thriving, they’re not.

It’s only a matter of time before the rabbit hemorrhagic disease reaches the South Island. Earlier this year it was blamed for hundreds of deaths in Nanaimo and the Comox Valley. It’s had a similar effect in the Lower Mainland.

“It is very possible RHD will still be found in Greater Victoria in the future, and we are actually surprised it hasn’t already,” said Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Sara Dubois. “We can only hope the virus does not spread more, as now people are aware of it and many have vaccinated their animals. But the ferals are still at risk, and many might not be discovered if they die in their warrens.”

RELATED: UVic officially rabbit free; Saanich mulls tougher rules for pet stores (2011)

The feral rabbits exist here only because of the warmer climates of the Lower Island and the Lower Mainland. Yet it’s not a glamorous life, which the SPCA Wild ARC learned while supporting the spaying and neutering of the Helmcken rabbits two years ago.

“We found the animals at Helmcken were in poor condition, the males were scratched from fighting and all the females were pregnant,” Dubois said. “It’s not a good life.”

If a rabbit (or rabbits) show up in your yard, don’t bother calling CRD animal control or the Saanich pound.

RELATED: Saanich bylaw could take aim at non-migratory Canada geese

They are deemed wild by the province. However, if they’re friendly and permit you to pet them or even pick them up, then Dubois suggests calling the local animal control or shelter. Yes, most local shelters are already full of rabbits, and there are not enough homes, but they strive to manage this phenomenon.

“If it was feral dogs, this would be taken care of, or even cats, but with rabbits we’re not quite there yet,” Dubois said. “What we see happen is there’s a group of rabbits in a park, and someone says, ‘well, we don’t have time for ours, so we’ll leave it with this batch.’ But that has to stop.”

Communities with escalating rabbit populations even partnered with the SPCA to get a UBCM moratorium on pet rabbit sales in B.C.

“If you are going to buy a pet rabbit, please be responsible and make sure it’s spayed or neutered,” Dubois said.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

reporter@saanichnews.com

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

Just Posted

Province asks health-care staff to be ‘vigilant’ in screening for possible coronavirus cases

This comes after U.S. health officials confirmed a case of the virus in Washington State

Gold Rush star dons Lucky Lager shirt in latest episode

Brennan Ruault, originally from Invermere, joined the show in the sixth season

Homes fit for royals for sale in North Saanich

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have returned to Greater Victoria

VIDEO: Dashcam records near-miss by bad driver near Sooke

Driver crossed four lanes of traffic and back over again, barely missing three other vehicles

VIDEO: Protesters block entrance to Victoria government building to support Wet’suwet’en First Nation

Activists want Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs demands to be upheld, observed and respected

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

B.C. player becomes only second Canadian to enter Hall of Fame of Baseball

Walker received 76.6 percent of the Baseball Writers of America Association vote

PHOTOS: Heavy snowfall breaks window, causing avalanche into B.C. newsroom office

It was a chaotic start to the week for the Kitimat Northern Sentinel

Canadian law firm launches class action on behalf of Iran flight victims

Flight 752 was shot down by Iran shortly after take off

Mission Hill cellarman fired after mistakenly dumping $162K of wine down the drain

The former employee filed a grievance with the West Kelowna winery but was unsuccesful

Police suspect foul play in Cowichan Tribes death

Police are looking at foul play in relation to a death on… Continue reading

Hospital patient pleads guilty to dumbbell assault of nurse in Abbotsford

Neale Heath admits to assault causing bodily harm in attack last September

Most Read