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Bunny lovers freeing rabbits from traps

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Bunny lovers freeing rabbits from traps

By Ron Seymour

February 3, 2009

Trapped rabbits are being freed from their cages by people opposed to the city�s eradication campaign, council heard on Monday.

And some property owners are refusing to let the traps be set up on their land.

Such people are "interfering" with the efforts of a city-hired contractor to reduce the number of wild rabbits, pest control supervisor Ian Wilson told council.

Nevertheless, the program is achieving results, with only an estimated 100-150 rabbits remaining from a peak population count last fall of more than 1,000.

Virtually all of the rabbits have been killed, though a few dozen have been placed with animal protection groups opposed to the cull.

EBB Environmental Consulting Ltd., which won a $54,000 contract to deal with the rabbits last year, only has enough money remaining in its budget to keep up the trapping-and-killing for a few more weeks.

To round up and dispatch the rest of the rabbits might cost another $17,000, according to estimates provided to the city by EBB.

Some animal-rights groups have offered to accept more of the trapped rabbits, if the city provides money for their care and feeding.

Council took no action on Monday, deciding to let the contract with EBB run its course and then revisit the issue in a few weeks.

Coun. Graeme James introduced a motion allowing EBB to once again begin shooting the rabbits where they are found. That was the method originally used, but the city put a halt to it after an EBB employee was observed last fall stomping a rabbit to death after a pellet gun didn�t kill it.

Since then, the rabbits have been trapped, usually at night, then moved to a second location, where most of them are shot.

James said shooting on-site is arguably more inhumane to the rabbits, since it probably "scared the bejeezus" out of the animals to be trapped, relocated and then killed.

But James� motion to allow EBB to begin shooting the rabbits where they are found was defeated by council.

"Give it another three weeks of live trapping with the goal being relocation, and then see where we�re at," said Coun. Charlie Hodge.

"I�m not ruling out any options once the contract is up," said Coun. Robert Hobson.

Rabbits subject of 'hate mail'

by Wayne Moore - Story: 44793

Feb 3, 2009

Kelowna citizens for and against the capture of feral rabbits in the City are being encouraged to 'chill out.'

Councillor Charlie Hodge asked that threatening calls and emails stop during a debate on how to proceed after the current contract with EBB Environmental Consulting runs out.

"I have some real concerns with the response by some of the public. I've received some phone calls and some emails," says Hodge.

"I would ask the public to be cognizant when they are making these intimidating phone calls, especially to our staff that the people here are doing their best to solve this problem. I wouldn't say its militant groups as much as it is individuals that are perhaps going way over the edge in terms of threats and insults."

City Forestry Supervisor, Ian Wilson, says EBB has also been receiving threats after the company requested using air rifles again, saying it was more effective and less costly than trapping.

"In recent discussions with them, and I know they had suggested that two weeks ago, they have gotten a lot of hate mail to put it nicely," says Wilson.

"They are a little more reluctant to go back to that."

In a detailed update for Council, Wilson says 654 rabbits have been trapped and relocated or killed to date. He says about 67 of those were trapped during the past two weeks.

"Most of those were euthanized because we were unable to find immediate homes for them, however, I asked EBB to keep some of the animals alive in cages and well fed in hopes we may be able to find homes for them in the very near future."

Wilson says EBB has enough money left on its contract with the city for about three more weeks.

While he says it is reasonable they could trap another 60 rabbits, he estimates there are about 100 to 150 rabbits remaining.

He says those are conservative estimates and does acknowledge some new pockets have recently been discovered.

Wilson did receive an estimate from EBB on costs beyond the conclusion of the contract. Figures he presented to council include:

Trapping 50 rabbits - $5,780

Trapping 100 rabbits - $11,560

Trapping 150 rabbits - $17,341

With a short time remaining, Councillors showed concern over what could happen if the rabbit population were allowed to replenish itself.

Councillor Graeme James urged returning to the more effective air rifle as originally proposed by EBB, however, that option was discounted by the rest of council.

"Like I said before, I have spoken with the agricultural community and they are concerned. We now have rabbits on Glenmore Road in the Kane Road area and I can attest that if you see 150 rabbits there are a lot more in the bushes," says James.

"I just can't see wasting taxpayers money on more trapping."

Councillor Robert Hobson wanted the process to play out before making any further decisions.

"I feel we have agreed to this course of action, and it's coming to an end in the next few weeks. We are seeing considerable progress, so let's see where we go," says Hobson.

"I'm not ruling out any option once the contract is up as far as I'm concerned."

Wilson told council he would return once the contract is up with further updates. At that time, Council will likely set the next course of action.

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