For the last five months, Peter Hurley says he has watched the number of feral rabbits on his property, and that of his neighbours, grow — and there has been no action from the District of North Saanich.
Speaking to council at their Nov. 19 regular meeting, Hurley said he presented a petition on behalf of his neighbours, residents of the Green Park Estates subdivision, expressing concern with a growing population of feral rabbits. Five months after that, he said nothing has been done and the response from the municipality has been almost nonexistent.
“It seems to be a wide-spread problem,” Hurley said, noting that there are large feral rabbit populations throughout the region, including in Sidney.
“This has been an issue here for about four or five years.”
The area around Tanager Road, Green Park Drive, Calypso Lane and Elderberry Way does see more than its share of rabbits. Hurley said he has gone as far as contacting the facilities manager at the University of Victoria, which has had a problem with feral rabbits as well.
“I asked them how they dealt with it,” Hurley said, noting he was told UVic has program to capture and sterilize the rabbits to try and control their numbers.
The university also found people willing to relocate the animals.
Hurley said after hearing nothing from the district months ago, he spoke with councillor Conny McBride, but still, nothing has been done.
“You can catch them,” noted McBride Monday night, “you just aren’t allowed to kill them.”
She said she read provincial wildlife regulations on the matter and with that limitation, dealing with the rabbit population in North Saanich is going to be expensive.
“But the longer it’s left, the worse it can get,” she said.
“The problem is spreading throughout the neighbourhood,’ Hurley added.
“There are thousands of them,” said McBride, “and they are growing.”
Resident Ted Izard addressed the issue as well, saying he doesn’t feel there’s a problem. ‘I don’t feel there has been an increase in (rabbit numbers),” he said. “I enjoy having the animals there.”
He said they are harmless and part of rural living.
“I hope council understands there really isn’t a problem.”
McBride said, however, that the rabbits in the area are domestic animals gone wild and they will have an impact on people’s property and on agricultural land in the area. She suggested staff needs to look into the matter and plan for animal control there.
District director of planning Mark Brodrick said the issue was brought to an environmental advisory committee meeting last August, but no recommendations were made.
He said under current laws, there are a few options to deal with the problem — from trapping and sterilizing them, to using repellents and fences and keeping yards clear of habitat.
Another option might be trapping them and using them as raptor food at a rehabilitation centre for birds of prey.
Coun. Dunstan Browne suggested staff speak with officials at the University of Victoria to determine the best options to deal with a lot of rabbits.
“Staff needs to find out more,” he said. “There are no firm statistics (on rabbit numbers), only the impressions of the residents, and there is some dispute there. UVic might be helpful.”
Council referred the matter to district staff for more information and control suggestions.
“The damage they cause can be extensive,” added Coun. Elsie McMurphy. “Then, there’s a huge emotional conflict. We do need to deal with this before it gets out of control.”