It may seem like the cute little bunnies that dot fields across B.C. belong here, but — for the most part — they don’t.
The rabbits most commonly seen in B.C. are wild European and eastern cottontail rabbits, a non-native species. These rabbits are often pets that have been released into the wild and once they’re out, they mate like rabbits.
This has led to an abundance of bunnies in B.C. and the province has now enacted regulation changes to control the feral rabbit population.
Under changes to the Designation and Exemption Regulations in the Wildlife Act, European and eastern cottontail rabbits can no longer be relocated or released into the wild.
B.C. has also removed the need for permits before trafficking, possessing or exporting European rabbits, captive or not. This removes permit requirements for municipalities or other groups to trap rabbits and transport them to rehab centres or homes, or euthanize them.
“These regulatory changes will improve the ability to move feral non-native rabbits from one location to another and support options for having existing non-native rabbits remove,” the province said in a news release. “The amendments are a first step to improve the management of feral rabbits in order to reduce their spread and minimize their impact on the environment.”
In recent years, domesticated rabbit populations on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland were decimated by rabbit hemorrhagic disease, which kills most infected rabbits. Populations have since bounced back.
Abandoning pet rabbits in the wild is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada and an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.