British Columbia

B.C. government steps up highway bunny battle in Victoria

The provincial government is stepping up its tactics to dissuade people from dropping off their rabbits at the Helmcken highway interchange in Victoria.

Signs and cameras are being installed at Victoria's Helmcken interchange as rabbit-trapping efforts continue

Abandoned rabbits in Victoria, B.C. were given a new lease on life when they were captured and flown to a sanctuary in Texas. (Government of B.C.)

The B.C. government is trying to stay one hop ahead of the feral rabbit population at the Helmcken interchange near Highway 1 in Victoria.

Janelle Irwin, with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, said workers have successfully trapped 120 bunnies since February.

Irwin said pet owners are the main cause of the furry explosion.

"What we've discovered is that there's still some folks that are dropping off rabbits," she said. 

"It's making it a bit challenging to keep up our efforts here."

To dissuade people from doing this, Irwin said signs are being installed warning people not to feed the rabbits or stop at the exchange.

The signs also warn people they could be subject to a hefty fine — under the Wildlife Act, releasing or abandoning animals could cost $345 per offence.

"We're installing a security camera to monitor the area and to dissuade folks from thinking its a good idea to abandon their pets."

Irwin said if pet owners can no longer take care of their rabbits, they should contact an animal shelter.

Many resources devoted to the effort

These efforts complement the ongoing drive to trap and capture the feral rabbits, she said.

Once the rabbits have been trapped by a qualified trapper they are transported to an interim care facility where volunteers spay and neuter the captured bunnies and prepare them to be relocated to a sanctuary in the U.S.

The Helmcken interchange in Victoria — pictured above — is "not an appropriate place to drop off rabbits" says Janelle Irwin with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. (Google Maps)

"[There's] a lot of folks involved, a lot of time involved and a lot of money involved in this effort." 

If they can't get the population under control, the government might have to consider alternate methods to deal with rabbits including euthanasia.

As to why the province has engaged in this particular bunny battle, Irwin said it's a matter of public safety.

"It's not safe for the rabbits and not safe for the travelling public ... we also don't want people stopping on the edge of the highway to picnic with the rabbits or feed the rabbits or drop off more rabbits."

With files from On The Island

To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled Janelle Irwin, with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, on the Helmcken interchange rabbits