- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - A “Bunny Task Force” has been created in an effort to help control Juneau’s growing population of feral rabbits.

Stephanie Sell, biologist with the Department of Fish and Game, formed the group in response to the increasing number of complaints issued to the department about the rabbits in the Mendenhall Valley, The Juneau Empire reported (http://bit.ly/1SCZJgC). Sell estimates that there are “upwards of a couple hundred” rabbits now living in the valley.

The Bunny Task Force is comprised of members from Animal Control, the Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Forest Service, the Gastineau Humane Society and the Juneau Police Department.

“It took several years for this partnership to blossom and become what it is today,” said Animal Control officer Ben Peyerk.

While officials can’t say exactly where the rabbits have come from, most people familiar with the problem say someone brought the animals to Juneau and then released them into the wild.

The number of rabbits turned over to the Gastineau Humane Society has steadily increased over the past few years, but this year the shelter has been especially hard hit, Peyerk said.

Between April and July of this year, the Humane Society took in more than 20 rabbits and spent more than $16,000 caring for the animals.

This summer, the Forest Service began reporting rabbit sightings at the glacier for the first time. John Neary, director of the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, said he and his staff have seen them on numerous occasions.

“You always wonder how many more there might be that you’re not seeing,” Neary said.

In order to control the rabbit population, Fish and Game officials have been handing out traps to community members who are interested in capturing the rabbits. People can call the Humane Society or Fish and Game once they trap a rabbit to have it picked up.

The Humane Society will spay and neuter any rabbits caught and put them up for adoption. Fish and Game will euthanize the rabbits and donate them to the Juneau Raptor Center and the American Bald Eagle Foundation in Haines, where they will be used to feed raptors.

“We just need people’s help at this point,” Sell said. “We need the community’s help if we are going to put a dent in this.”

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Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com

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