Nfld. & Labrador

After discovering dozens of dead rabbits, this St. John's man wants answers

WARNING: This story contains graphic imagery of dead snowshoe hares.

WARNING: This story contains graphic imagery

Jason Parsons learned about the carcasses from a friend who walks his dog in the area. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

A man who found a pile of dead snowshoe hares numbering in the dozens near a highway in St. John's wants to know how they ended up there and why no one from the provincial government cleaned them up. 

Jason Parsons heard about the heap of hares — commonly referred to as rabbits — from a friend who walks his dog in the area, just steps from Robert E. Howlett Memorial Drive, otherwise known as the Goulds bypass highway. 

"It's very disgusting, very wasteful," Parsons said. 

"It's just so disgraceful."

Parsons said he called the wildlife division of the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources to report what he found, but wasn't happy with the outcome. 

"Wildlife told me they don't have the resources to send someone out because chances are no one will ever be caught," he said. 

"Really makes me wonder why we have a wildlife officer."

In a statement late Monday afternoon, the department said its investigation has been jeopardized because the animals were cleaned up.

So many carcasses can attract coyotes, says Joseph Pennell, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Anglers and Hunters. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

On Sunday night, Joseph Pennell, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Anglers and Hunters, drove from his home in Bay Roberts to Goulds and, together with Parsons, picked up 74 dead hares. 

"It's a blight to us," Pennell said. "A poacher did that. Not a hunter." 

It's a complete waste, it's complete laziness, it's completely disrespectful.- Joseph Pennell

Pennell said the number of animals he and Parsons picked up is more than anyone is legally allowed to possess at any given time. 

He also thinks that there may have been more rabbits dumped than cleaned up, because coyotes may have taken some away.

Carcasses attract coyotes

Pennell doesn't know what happened to the hares or how they ended up on the side of the road, but his best guess is that the person responsible was cleaning out their freezer.

"They could have sold them and put some money in their pocket. So it's a complete waste, it's complete laziness, it's completely disrespectful," he said. 

Pennell agrees with Parsons that someone from the wildlife division should have moved the animals, in part because the carcasses attract coyotes, which could be a hazard for people in the area. 

"To be fair, there's nothing to investigate. There's nothing they could do to catch the person," he said. "I think they should have cleaned it up."

The department later said its officers were busy with other investigations and were planning on getting to the hares as soon as possible.

"Prior to being able to investigate the rabbit disposal incident, officers were advised the rabbits and other potential evidence had been removed from the area, jeopardizing any subsequent investigation into the matter," the statement read.

"As a result, enforcement officials with the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources are advising the public to report any discoveries of deceased wildlife and to refrain from removing items that may impede ongoing or future wildlife enforcement-related investigations."

The department said enforcement officers have been conducting multiple investigations on the Avalon Peninsula over the last two weeks related to illegal hunting, and charges are pending. 

The improper disposal of wildlife is a violation of the Wildlife Act, with penalties of up to $200 and three months in prison, the department said. 

Parsons and Pennell picked up 74 dead snowshoe hares. Pennell says he and his father will find a suitable place to dispose of them. (Submitted)

Pennell said Monday morning that the bagged hares were still in his car and starting to smell. 

Just as soon as he'd had his coffee, he said, he and his father would go find a better place for the animals.

"The way it should have been done in the first place. Out of sight."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Jeremy Eaton

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