UVic rabbits have left Coombs for Alberta

Ministry confirmed the remaining UVic rabbits have left Vancouver Island

The remainder of the UVic feral rabbits from a Coombs sanctuary have retired to Alberta.

The founder of the Earthanimal Humane Education and Rescue Society (EARS) has confirmed the rabbits are no longer on Vancouver Island.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) confirmed 147 rabbits were relocated to a sanctuary in Alberta earlier this summer.

“EARS had a permit to operate, but that permit expired on July 31, 2015,” FLNRO communications manager Sharon Dean told The NEWS by e-mail Friday. “EARS has not renewed the permit and has instead relocated to Alberta.”

In June 2010, EARS assisted the University of Victoria in removing and rehoming about 600 feral rabbits from the University of Victoria campus to Coombs.

According to the ministry, “European rabbits are a ‘schedule C’ invasive species, so there is no permit needed to trap and kill them, however a permit is needed to possess them live in cases where they are being moved to another location, as with the UVic project.”

FLNRO provided EARS a one-time five year permit allowing them to take possession of the rabbits captured at UVic. As a condition of the permit, they were required to report annually on the rabbits received from that project.

Sanctuaries are permitted on a case-by-case basis only, and must each be approved on their own merit for specific reasons.

Susan Vickery, founder of EARS, described by its website as “a volunteer-operated, registered animal welfare charity,” said the last of the rabbits were transported to Alberta by vehicle in July.

“I got permission from the Ministry to relocate the former UVic rabbits… I had the option of renewing a five-year permit and I said I’d rather move them to a more appropriate place,” Vickery told The NEWS last week. “It’s a great climate, nicer environment and more secure.”

Moreover, Vickery said because EARS, which is a private rabbit sanctuary, is located close to public access points it’s often the target of trespassing, break-ins and vandalism. She claims just last week a person was distributing posters directing tourists to her private property to see the sanctuary.

“The relocation is in the rabbits’ best interest,” she said.

A concerned resident called The NEWS last week worried about deceased rabbits she saw on the EARS property.

Asked about the deceased animals, Vickery explained: “(The rabbits) have free range in large pens… once they die they’re sometimes dug back out by other rabbits, it sounds disgusting… The first few times I thought it was gruesome … but once these animals are gone, they think nothing of digging them back out… That’s their life cycle and there’s nothing inhumane about it.”

Vickery said she works hard to give the rabbits the most natural life and death possible.

“I’ve been at this for 15 years and it’s something we take very seriously and it’s not about abusing animals, the alternative is you keep them in confines where they don’t have that kind of freedom and that’s not a sanctuary, it’s a prison or a hospital,” she said.

“Do these animals suffer? I hope not. We do the best we can and believe me after five years you know them all. I haven’t figured out how to make them live forever and that’s the truth.”

According to Vickery’s annual report submitted to the ministry and obtained by The NEWS, 167 rabbits died last year from natural causes.

Vickery said most of the rabbits were mature when she took them in five years ago, so it’s not surprising that their numbers have declined.

Despite questions Vickery confirmed the remaining 147 rabbits were relocated last month.

“There’s nothing here to complain about,” she said. “Any animals here are my personal animals.”

EARS had been criticized in the past by people in the community concerned about the wellbeing of the rabbits in the sanctuary, as well as by neighbours who were frustrated by rabbits escaping.

Vickery said she’s had people threaten her, break into her home, steal from and vandalize her property over the years and as recently as this week.

Vickery is hoping now that the rabbits have been relocated the dust will settle and she’ll be left alone.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Old Schoolhouse Arts Centre in Qualicum Beach to re-open on Aug. 11

Hours are Tuesday to Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

EDITORIAL: Real communication can solve problems

Neighbourhood dispute in Columbia Beach made headlines

COVID-19: SD69 working on how to organize schools for planned fall re-opening

Qualicum School District required to have plan to ministry by Aug. 26

RDN Transit requiring masks for most come end of month

Masks, hand sanitizer to be handed out in Regional District of Nanaimo mask policy campaign

Major injuries averted after three-vehicle crash in Nanoose Bay

Poor road conditions believed a factor in early-morning mishap

371 British Columbians battling COVID-19, health officials confirm

Thursday (Aug. 6) saw a second straight day of nearly 50 new confirmed cases

Walmart to make face masks mandatory for customers across Canada

Requirement goes into effect on Wednesday, Aug. 12 across Canada

Cowichan RCMP use spike belts to end car chase — man in custody

The driver was arrested at the scene a short distance from his vehicle

Island youth starts virtual race against racism

Cailyn Collins says people can take part in the cause from anywhere

COVID-19 tests come back negative for remote First Nation

“There are no suspected cases in the community at this time.”

Answers to 5 common questions facing families for the COVID-19 school year

COVID-19 protocols are likely to vary even more at the school board level, and even and school-to-school.

Canucks blank Wild 3-0, take series lead in penalty-filled NHL qualifying clash

Jacob Markstrom stops 27 shots to lead Vancouver past Minnesota

Masks to be mandatory on BC Transit, TransLink starting Aug. 24

Both BC Transit and TransLink made the announcement in separate press releases on Thursday

B.C. would not send students back to school if there was ‘overwhelming risk’: Horgan

Plan has left many parents across the province worried about their children’s safety

Most Read