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Rabbit woes continue to multiply at University of Victoria

Rabbits congregate around students at the University of Victoria campus.

Rabbits congregate around students at the University of Victoria campus.

Photograph by: Debra Brash, Times Colonist

VICTORIA — There’s bad blood on the bunny front at the University of Victoria.

As the university struggles with the question of what to do with between 1,500 and 2,000 feral rabbits — which are chewing and digging their way through the campus grounds — emotions are running high, fuelled by accusations of misinformation from both sides.

Leaders of the protect-the-bunnies movement claim the university is secretly killing rabbits at night and that there are "poison boxes" on the grounds. Bunny supporters claim that officials have only paid lip-service to trap and sterilize programs as they always regarded a massive slaughter as the final solution.

"The University of Victoria has been for years conducting a misinformation campaign in order to justify their killing of abandoned domestic rabbits on campus," said animal rights activist Roslyn Cassells.

"Betrayal is the order of the day at the University of Victoria, where a large-scale nighttime shooting of over 1,000 abandoned pet rabbits is imminent," Cassells said in a recent e-mail to the media.

But the university’s facilities management director Tom Smith denies the activists’ claims.

"I think it’s an effort to draw attention to it through sensationalism," he said. "I don’t think this would be happening if it was snakes."

There is no secret cull, no poison boxes, no nighttime sharpshooters and no plan for a mass extermination, Smith said.

And there will always be a place for rabbits on campus, he added.

But the university does want to have rabbit-free zones in sch areas as the playing fields — where students have tripped in rabbit holes — and the grass outside residences, which is now black with rabbit feces.

"It’s where students used to lie and study outside. They can’t do that anymore because of the feces," Smith said.

The university’s rabbit population has been a bone of contention for more than two decades.

Most of the bunnies are offspring from pets abandoned on the grounds in the 1980s and 1990s — their stripes, spots and unusual colourings are easy proof they aren’t indigenous.

Since then, the animals have been destroying trees, digging holes, and ruining sidewalks, said Bentley Sly, University of Victoria grounds manager.

"We just can’t keep up with them and they all have this impulse to dig," he said.

University officials estimate the cost of rabbit damage at $100,000 over the last three years.

Source: The Gazette

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May 10, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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