A white knight has hopped into the fray to rescue bunnies facing the death penalty in a scenic Rocky Mountain community near Banff National Park.
The town of Canmore, Alta., has made international headlines and faced the wrath of animal lovers for its controversial plan to destroy its out-of-control feral rabbit population.
It has sparked heated debate in Canmore itself with one website calling for a tourism boycott and threatening emails being sent to the town office, which are currently being investigated by the RCMP.
But the cull may not be necessary after an offer from the Animal Rescue Corps, a non-profit animal protection organization based in Washington, D.C.
The group is proposing to work with Canmore, 110 km west of Calgary, and manage all aspects of dealing with the rabbit problem, including trapping, transporting, spaying, neutering and placement in a new home.
6 weeks to control population
ARC president Scotlund Haisley says that could be done within a six-week period.
"Animal Rescue Corps presents to the town of Canmore a humane and lasting solution to address your community's feral rabbit population. When driven by compassion, I believe the humane solution is always possible through collaboration and determination," ARC president and founder Scotlund Haisley wrote in a letter to Canmore. "With a plan in place, ARC would be on the ground as soon as is feasible. Once there, we anticipate the entire operation would last no longer than six weeks (to capture, sterilize and relocate 100 per cent of the rabbits) and would be completed at less cost to the community than the current catch-and-kill plan."
'It's wonderful news. It's absolutely wonderful. It's a dream come true,' —Susan Vickery, founder of Earth Animal Rescue Society
Haisley is asking Canmore to immediately throw out the trap-and-kill plan so final details can be worked out.
The town, located 110 kilometres west of Calgary, hasn't commented on the offer.
Canmore was expected to begin dealing with some of its burgeoning bunny population this month. It hired a contractor to trap the long-eared hoppers and have them gassed if a deal couldn't be worked out with a local animal welfare group to sterilize and relocate them.
According to the ARC website, its mandate is to end animal suffering through direct and compassionate action, and to inspire the highest ethical standards of humanity towards animals.
"It's wonderful news. It's absolutely wonderful. It's a dream come true," said Susan Vickery, founder of Earth Animal Rescue Society, which has been working with Save Canmore Bunnies.
"They're going to catch them. They're going to spay and neuter them. They have literally thousands of volunteers through North America and they're networking with all the sanctuaries and they're huge," she said.Vickery said she's not sure how the community can turn down an offer that saves money and allows it to "save face" internationally.