Invasive rabbits' spread in B.C. target of changes to Wildlife Act

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      Changes to B.C.'s Wildlife Act are aimed at slowing the spread of feral non-native and potentially harmful rabbits.

      The regulatory amendments are designed to help manage the harmful effects of invasive wild members of the Leperidae family, which includes all rabbits and hares.

      Because all species of Leperidae are designated wildlife in B.C., rabbits and hares are managed under the Wildlife Act; the changes were made to the designation and exemption regulations.

      Feral non-native European and eastern cottontail rabbits and hares cause agricultural damage by reducing crop yields and overgrazing pastures; they also compete with native species for food and habitat and may threaten local plant species.

      As well, feral non-native rabbits and hares can damage yards, lawns, gardens, shrubs, and trees on private property.

      The European rabbit is known for digging networks of burrows, where it raises its young, sleeps, and avoids predators when not feeding.

      Entrance to a European rabbit burrow.
      Wikimedia Commons/AnRo0002

      Female European rabbits can have more than four litters per year of up to five kits each, and does may begin breeding just three to five months after birth.

      With the Wildlife Act changes, which the Ministry of Forests made public in a June 23 information bulletin, European and eastern cottontail rabbits can no longer be released, or relocated, into the wild.

      Another change removes the need for a permit to sell, export, or possess European rabbits. This will make it easier for municipalities or volunteer groups, for instance, to trap and transport rabbits for eutnanization, rehabilitation, or adoption.

      The Forests Ministry described the changes as a "first step" in reducing their impact on the environment and slowing their spread.