bc-100401-uvic-rabbits

Animal rights activits are now trying intervene directly against the Unversity of Victoria's cull of rabbits. ((CBC))

A battle over bunnies at the University of Victoria is heating up as animal rights activists fight the school's attempt to cull the animals' growing population.

About 100 rabbits have been killed as the university tries to deal with about 1,300 of them on school grounds.

Officials are trapping the rabbits, then having them killed.

"We're delivering the rabbits to a veterinarian, who's euthanizing them through an injection," said the university's facilities manager, Tom Smith.

'I'm tired of people writing them off as wildlife.'—Kelly Carson of Save UVic Bunnies

Activists say destroying the rabbits is unnecessary and call for alternative methods to deal with the population explosion.

A local veterinarian has offered to neuter male rabbits free of charge, said Kelly Carson of the group Save UVic Bunnies.

"It could be time-consuming, but ultimately, it's the right thing to do," said Carson.

The university says it might consider some method of sterilization eventually, but in the short term it has to act quickly, Smith said.

The animals are frequently hit by vehicles, leave droppings and have dug holes all over the campus, especially on athletic fields.

"The purpose is to rid the area of rabbits because of the critical concern we have for athletes hurting themselves," said Smith.

Humane plan in works

The activists have been videotaping the trappers as they collect the live rabbits. On Monday, they started freeing animals that had been trapped.

"I care because these animals fall into a grey area," said Carson. "They aren't pets. They aren't wildlife. And I'm tired of people writing them off as wildlife."

The group is also worried about poison boxes that have been set up to control mice and rats. They say young rabbits are attracted to the bait and are small enough to get into the boxes.

"They're obviously investigating and ingesting and dying all over the campus," said Carson. "I saw three last night. Dead babies."

The university said it will reveal a long-term strategy in June that would control the rabbit population without killing.