British Columbia

Rabbits causing headaches at UVic

Wild rabbits are making a mess and creating hazards for athletes and others on the campus of the University of Victoria, leaving officials struggling to come up with a strategy to control the animals.

Wild rabbits are making a mess and creating hazards for athletes and others on the campus of the University of Victoria, leaving officials struggling to come up with a strategy to control the animals.

An estimated 1,300 rabbits now populate the university grounds, leaving droppings, destroying vegetation and digging holes that have become dangerous.

"We have rabbit feces everywhere," said Tom Smith, the university's executive director of facilities management. "They actually kill trees that are 12 to 18 inches in diameter … not to mention cleaning up three to five rabbits a day [hit by vehicles on] the university roads."

The holes the rabbits dig on playing fields are often hard to spot and dangerous for athletes.

"We've had a significant rugby injury already," said Clint Hamilton, director of athletics and recreation. "An athlete stepped through a field … compromised by the burrowing and tunnelling [and suffered] a severe fracture of the ankle."

Not everyone on campus considers the animals pests.

"When you have a bad day, it's just really fun to get an apple and start feeding a bunny," said student Jon Salonga.

University staff are considering separating the campus into rabbit-free zones and areas where the animals could roam freely. They hope to use a combination of spaying, relocating and culling to control the rabbit problem.

"The rabbits will always have a presence on campus," said Smith. "So, a complete cull is one drastic measure I don't think will be considered.

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