An Alberta mountain community with an out-of-control feral rabbit population is balking at an offer of help from a U.S.-based animal rights group.

Scotlund Haisley, president of the Animal Rescue Corps, says the town of Canmore, west of Calgary, wants a proposal that includes a pre-approved sanctuary and includes working with the firm hired to trap and kill the bunnies.

Two weeks ago, the non-profit group offered to trap, transport, spay and neuter the animals before placing them in new homes.

Haisley said Monday the group can't specify a sanctuary in advance until it knows more about the type and number of rabbits with which it is dealing. And until the town commits to abandoning its catch-and-kill plan, the two can't work together.

"I'm not very optimistic that it will work out," Haisley said in a telephone interview from Washington. "Obviously our proposal remains. It is in the hands of the town council. Our offer remains in leading an efficient and effective operation."


The U.S.-based Animal Rescue Corps says its plan to save feral rabbits in Canmore is being opposed by the mountain town. (CBC)

Canmore's mayor said the whole issue has been blown out of proportion.

Ron Casey said the town set out clear criteria for any groups interested in saving the rabbits and the U.S. organization is just being asked to abide by the rules.

'They had to meet the criteria'

"We had been very clear right from the beginning [that] we had a set of criteria that we were asking anyone that runs rescue operations to meet," said Casey.

"We had simply responded to them like we did with everybody else — they had to meet the criteria about a sanctuary being identified.

"They need to be able to track the animals. They need to be able to show they can doctor them, feed them, spay them, neuter them and that sort of thing.

"We're not about to pass this problem on to somebody else and we're not about to do it irresponsibly."

"I can't recall a situation where the authorities in a community didn't accept our proposal," Haisley said. "It is what it is.

"We've proposed it and it appears that the community has not accepted our proposal and that's unfortunate."

Canmore has made international headlines and faced the wrath of animal lovers for its plan to destroy about 2,000 rabbits.

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.