Monday, December 26, 2011

Rabbit Stew

The Town of Canmore in rural Alberta has a rabbit problem. There are about 2,000 domestic rabbits in the town and they are becoming a serious nuisance, and probably a health hazard. These are not wild animals hanging about in safe towns like the white-tailed deer in Lunenburg or the elk in Jasper. These are domesticated rabbits that have been able to survive and prosper in the town, protected from predators like foxes and coyotes and owls. Nackawic, a small town in New Brunswick, had a similar problem with Canada geese last fall; they weren’t migrating in winter, and they were fouling the waterfront and the golf courses.
Here in Canada we have a problem with our perceptions of animals – they are either farm animals, or pets, or wild animals. We eat many of the farm animals and a few of the wild animals, but we don’t eat pets. Working animals seem to be in a class of their own – they are named like pets but used like farm animals.
The big problem comes when we begin to confuse the categories. I look at loose rabbits in Canmore and see lots of good eating. I have raised and slaughtered and eaten domestic rabbits, and probably will again. But too many of the people of Canmore see the rabbits as pets, which we don’t eat and which we don’t casually cull. Same with geese hanging about our parks and golf courses. I have eaten a few geese and I have eaten lots of domestic ducks, and I would sure enjoy a meal of Canada Goose fattened on bread crumbs and grain in the local park. I doubt that the citizens of Nackawic would allow me to harvest a few of their geese. And given that harvesting Canada geese is regulated by various federal and provincial agencies, it may very well be quite a little problem to cull them, or even harass them into moving away.
I am of the view that times are going to get tougher in the next few years, and I would not be surprised to see us move back into another Great Depression. And when that happens, we are going to lose the luxury of treating edible animals as pets. Ducks and geese in public parks are going to be harvested and eaten by hungry people, and I see this as a good thing. We are also going to see pigeons taken. I expect that the dog and cat population will fall as people choose between feeding their families and feeding their pets. We will stop feeding edible grains to wild birds. We will have to redefine our relationship with our animals, and then Canmore’s problem would be seen as an opportunity.
Canmore finalizing deal to send some rabbit interlopers to sanctuary
By The Canadian Press Halifax Herald 22 Dec ’11
CANMORE, Alta. – An Alberta mountain community that is overrun with rabbits has accepted an offer to relocate the animals, but some of the bunnies will still be killed.
The town of Canmore says it is finalizing an agreement with Earthanimal Humane Education and Rescue Society to provide a sanctuary for its multitude of rabbits. The exact number is unknown, but some estimates suggest there are as many as 2,000 long-eared hoppers.
Spokeswoman Sally Caudill said the town of 12,000 on the eastern edge of Banff National Park, wanted to make sure the transfer of the rabbits was done responsibly.
The society, founded by Susan Vickery and going by the acro­nym EARS, is a volunteer-oper­ated, registered charity that man­ages sanctuaries for abandoned farm animals and European do­mestic rabbits. “We will give Susan as many rabbits as she’s capable of taking and then, after that, we will go ahead with the original plan, which is to trap and humanely euthanize and then send them to a wildlife rehab centre as feed,” Caudill said Wednesday.
Vickery said her group only has enough money so far for 150 rabbits to go to the sanctuary.
“I’m hoping that the communi­ty can keep up with donations and spare the lives of all the ani­mals,” she said from her home in Coombs on Vancouver Island. “I think it’s important that people know this isn’t the happy story they might think it is. Let’s hope it is.”
Calgary veterinarians are do­nating their time to spay and neuter the rabbits and City of Calgary bylaw services has of­fered the use of its clinic to do the operations.
Vickery, who runs a sanctuary for 600 rabbits, says her group has two donations of land for sanctuaries for between 25 and 150 rabbits in the Calgary area.
She doesn’t want to give the exact location because people may dump unwanted animals there.
She says it costs about $130 per rabbit to keep it in a sanctuary, which Vickery describes as a secure – rabbits like to dig – comfortable place for the animals, with a clean, dry place they can go to get out of the elements or rest.
Modifications will have to be made for the Calgary sanctuaries because of the harsher climate and presence of predators, Vick­ery said.
She said she doesn’t have a start date from Canmore. Caudill said that won’t be determined until after an agreement is signed. The rabbits taking over Can­more were originally pets, but were released in the 1990s and started doing what bunnies do best. Now, it’s estimated there could be one rabbit for every six people in the community.
The town has said the rabbits are too plentiful and could attract cougars and coyotes looking for an easy snack.
Canmore recently rejected an offer from the Animal Rescue Corps (ARC), a non-profit animal protection organization based in Washington, D.C. ARC had of­fered to take care of the rabbit infestation by trapping, trans­porting, spaying and neutering the animals and then placing them in a new home.

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