City of Regina 'trying to weigh the balance' between saving trees, culling rabbits

The city says it's trying to control the rabbit population, but is not trying to eliminate them completely.

City says it may have to kill some of the rabbits it traps to control exploding population

The City of Regina is looking at different population control methods to deal with rabbits in newer developed areas. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

A growing rabbit population has resulted in complaints from citizens and damage to city property like trees has led to a rabbit control program that includes killing some trapped rabbits, according to a city official. 

Russell Eirich, the City of Regina's manager of forestry, pest control and horticulture, says the rabbit population has increased throughout the city but the problem is particularly acute in newer areas like Harbour Landing.

The rabbits normally eat grass and other vegetation, but problems emerge in the winter, he said.

"When the snow gets deeper, the rabbits get a little bit more aggressive, a little bit more hungry in the sense they start to go after city trees."

Spokesperson Russell Eirich says the city employs various methods — including wrapping tree trunks that have bark that rabbits like to eat — aside from trapping and killing the animals. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

The city has, in the past, opted not to run a rabbit control program, but people were not satisfied with that response.

"So we're trying to figure out what we can do in terms of a proper control method and what's publicly acceptable," he said. "We're trying to weigh the balance between that."

Last year, the city began its rabbit control program, catching 27 animals. It released 10, and killed the other 17.

"This year, we haven't caught any yet. But the reality is we're probably going to have to euthanize," said Eirich, adding that with such a large rabbit problem in the city, it would be difficult to simply catch and release the rabbits in neighbouring rural municipalities.

Four wire traps were placed in a park in Harbour Landing in an effort to catch rabbits, which the city says are damaging trees in the area. So far, no rabbits have been caught this year. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

"I don't think it's responsible … to offload our problem onto them."

In an email to CBC News, a spokesperson for the city said if necessary, captured rabbits are "put down in a remote location," but did not specify how they are killed.

Eirich said the city is actively managing its traps as best as it can, and monitoring to see what works and what is acceptable to people.

The city is not trying to eliminate Regina's rabbit population, he stressed.

"You have to work with nature and what nature gives you."

Trapped animals may die of exposure: rescue volunteer

The rabbit population control program has already come under some scrutiny from residents.

Erin Pippin, a wildlife rescue volunteer, said she's worried about the traps the city is using to catch the rabbits.

"It is so cold outside, and the rabbits are going to be suffering no matter what," she said.

"There's a lot of potential with those live traps to capture other animals as well, whether they be cats, or something else, which will also suffer."

Karen Roberts and Erin Pippen both expressed concerns about the types of traps used in the program. Pippen asked the city to work with homeowners on Regina's outskirts to find suitable locations to release the rabbits. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

Eirich said the city will be checking the traps twice a day. Pippin said that's not good enough and the rabbits, if caught in the traps, are likely to die from exposure should they not be found in time.

Pippin said she would rather see the city work with homeowners on the outskirts of Regina to find habitats that are suitable for the rabbits instead of killing captured animals.

She recommended that people concerned about rabbits damaging trees on their property spray the base of the trees with a cayenne pepper solution.

Despite her concerns about trapping the rabbits, she said she was happy to hear that the city had tried a few different deterrence methods.

"It just really bothers me that in the end, these traps shouldn't be out in this weather at all."