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.

Just Posted

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased in Parksville

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

The Oceanside Minor Lacrosse Association will honour their many volunteers on June 26. (PQB News file photo)
Oceanside Minor Lacrosse to honour volunteers on June 26

Appreciation event set for Parksville Community Park

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Most Read