Canmore's rabbits might see sanctuaries after removal 0
Canmore cover, Wednesday, December 28, 2011
By Hamish MacLean
At least some of Canmore's rabbits will avoid death when they are removed from town.
The Town of Canmore announced, Dec. 21, that they were close to reaching a deal that would see the town's feral rabbit population reach a sanctuary rather than be culled.
The Town's communication coordinator Sally Caudill said that the Town was moving forward with a sanctuary solution provided by the woman who is credited with saving Victoria's rabbits, Susan Vickery of the Earthanimal Humane Education and Rescue Society (EARS).
Vickery said, Dec. 21, she was approaching the Town's announcement with caution, but she did say she thought she was close to an agreement - yet acknowledged that there were some reservations on her part.
"I'm not worried about it once those rabbits get in EARS' hands," she said. "Once they're handed over to us, I'm really satisfied that there is going to be good continuity of care there."
In the Town's press release Mayor Ron Casey said: "We want to make sure that any transfer of rabbits is done responsibly. We can't have our problem become someone else's."
EARS will be taking advantage of the offer from the City of Calgary bylaw services to use their clinic for spaying and neutering of the rabbits. There are veterinarians in place who have volunteered to assist with that process.
Vickery has 600 rabbits at her sanctuary from the University of Victoria and suggested a good route for Canmore would be to involve multiple sanctuaries instead.
She has already found two sanctuaries near Calgary, which are importantly Town of Canmore approved.
The Town had previously rejected groups' proposals for a "humane" solution to the rabbit problem in town because they could not provide a sanctuary.
Vickery's acreage she said requires a lot of maintenance, but that perhaps smaller sanctuaries, under the EARS umbrella, could provide a more manageable solution for the volunteers who take on the rabbits.
The two properties she has identified could provide a safe home for anywhere between 120 and 150 rabbits.
There are more rabbits than that in Canmore though. The Town of Canmore has not done an official count. But Vickery said that her Canmore-based supporters have done independent estimates of roughly 800 rabbits. She says that she believes that there are fewer than 1,000 rabbits that will need new homes.
And she said she feels she will be able to find sanctuaries to house all of the town's rabbits.
Caudill called Vickery's involvement "helpful and supportive" and said that Vickery's pressure to endorse some form of sanctuary solution through the Town - so that potential supporters felt that there was something to support - was instructive.
But Vickery said she has felt some frustration in dealing with the Town. It took five months of a "nasty" relationship with the University of Victoria before they found a way to work together and once they did, that the relationship became very good.
In Victoria, she said, there were more than 100 animals killed before the two sides managed to work together.
"What's sad about this is that there has been no learning curve," she said. "Why do we have to repeat the same scenario?"
She said it's been "tougher" with the Town. She said she saw the University of Victoria respond to criticism in such a way so as to preserve their reputation in a broader sphere.
"They were taking hard hits," Vickery said. "Canmore seems to have a really tough skin."
She likened the process with the Town of Canmore to "mud wrestling." But she said that the dynamic between her and the Town is evolving and changing almost on a daily basis.
From the beginning she said she's found there to be an "obstinance."
"Nothing's been easy," Vickery said. "And in my opinion, nothing's been very transparent and there's been no place for dialogue."
But she said she was interested to see how the community would respond to the Town's announcement.
"I've got mixed feelings about it," Vickery said. "I was asking everybody to be cautious. You know, 'Don't be jumping all over this. Don't be lulled into sleep over this and think everything is OK. It's not.'"
Vickery called the announcement "the Christmas story that the Town of Canmore wants everybody to hear right now."
She said that there is yet the outstanding agreement - a memorandum of understanding - that requires further detail before it is ready to be signed.
She said that she is concerned about the rabbits that are trapped outside, exposed to the elements and asked the Town to clarify their understanding of how the rabbits will move from the traps to her care.
"These animals are delicate," Vickery said. "I just wanted some feedback on that and I didn't get it.
"I don't want to be picking up half-dead animals. That's not the deal.
"I don't want to see these animals suffer. And there's no need for it. This could be orchestrated very nicely."
She said she wanted to know when the trapping might begin and the daily schedule for the trapping.
Save Canmore Bunnies' Kyndra Biggy said she too has been frustrated by the process, but that she saw the news as "great news."
She said she hopes that EARS can take the first rabbits trapped. She said the thought of the alternative - rabbits being gassed - made her skin crawl.
Biggy said she's not only seen division in the community but also some fatigue set in over the issue.
"I know that there are a lot of people who want to stay neutral on this," she said. "But hopefully (the Town's announcement) will make people see that this is happening."
She said that she hopes that presented with the choice between allowing the animals to be gassed versus providing a sanctuary that people will "step up."
But further donations to the organization would be required.
"The Town of Canmore will provide EARS with as many rabbits as they can take at this time," the Town's media release said. "Feral rabbits in Canmore are domesticated pets that were inappropriately released into the community. They are not a native wildlife species."
Despite some residents' beliefs that there are native rabbits in the area, wildlife biologists in the area say that is not the case.