Colwood staff brief council on growing feral rabbit population in Royal Bay

Colwood staff brief council on growing feral rabbit population in Royal Bay
WatchFeral rabbits have taken up residence in Colwood's Royal Bay neighbourhood and on Monday night, city staff are looking to council for approval to come up with options for a management program. Jasmine Bala has the story.

The Royal Bay neighbourhood in Colwood has been seeing a growing population of feral rabbits over the past year.

“They’re all over the place, whether they’re down on this level, or up on the top level of Royal Bay, that’s all you see,” said Kris Power, a resident. “You just see they’re wrecking the neighbourhood. They’re digging holes and it’s just terrible.”

Power said you can’t take a walk around the neighbourhood without running into some rabbits. Just this morning, he saw about 10 or 20 within 15 metres of leaving his home.

City staff are briefing council on the concerns of residents, landowners and staff at Monday night’s meeting.

The agenda item asks council whether they would like to receive a report detailing rabbit management options.

“In recent years, the beautification of Royal Bay has provided an increase in food and water for these animals. This has allowed a once small population of rabbits to flourish and expand throughout the area,” the briefing reads.

Rabbits have taken up residence throughout the neighbourhood, according to the report, beneath front-porches and parked vehicles.

“We did have them in our yard,” said Patrick O’Hara, a resident of the neighbourhood. “We had to block off all the fencing at the bottom, any gaps that were in there because they’d come into the yard and they’d start tunnelling and digging and eating all the plants.”

Many residents have had to replant their gardens multiple times, spray their plants with deterrent, or switch to rocks instead of soil, the report notes.

“Staff have noticed an impact on infrastructure throughout Royal Bay: garden beds are riddled with burrows as rabbits litter the sidewalk with excavated soil and plant debris,” it reads.

Ten years ago, the University of Victoria faced a similar problem. The campus became home to nearly 2,000 feral rabbits. They were rounded up and most of them transported to a sanctuary in Texas.

Dozens of rabbits who lived in the grassy area near the Helmcken overpass in 2016 were also moved to Texas, as a result of a coordinated volunteer effort.

Royal Bay residents are disappointed that it’s taken so long to get the attention of council but hope some sort of action is taken to address the issue.

“I’m hoping the city will acknowledge that this is a problem and they’ll get rid of the bunnies,” said Power. “Hopefully once they’re gone, they also put a notice out to everybody to please be aware if you are getting a bunny, make sure that when the time comes, you don’t let them out in your backyard.”

“You know rabbits,” he added, “Once you let a few of them out, after about a year, they’re double and triple.”

Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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