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City Informer: Why Are There So Many Bunnies at Jericho Beach?

Ah, the beach! Known for the sun, the surf, the sand and the hundreds upon hundreds of 10-pound rabbits. Or at least that’s the case down at Jericho, where a colony of feral bunnies have been running rampant for the past two decades, as if they don’t even care that Urban Rec has the volleyball courts booked. Rude! 

Though the waterfront is historically home to many creatures, great and small, from tiny crabs to weekend-dads trying to paddleboard, it’s true that wascally wabbits would not typically be among them. Jericho’s abundant bunny population is actually an affront to nature, a man-made phenomenon that has spiralled—albeit adorably—out of control.

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How can one tell that these beach bunnies don’t belong? It’s not just because they don’t have a membership to the Jericho Sailing Centre. It’s because these “big chonkers” (scientific term) are not North American rabbits: they’re European immigrants, bred to be pets and then abandoned by their owners. (I’m picturing several simultaneous dramatic Harry and the Hendersons moments, and  I encourage you to do the same.)

The Vancouver Park Board estimates that the first domestic rabbits were ditched here some time around the early 2000s. There’s no way for us to know what would’ve pushed someone to so callously abandon a pet, but let’s try to have some empathy for this faceless rabbit tosser—we all dealt with the fallout of Y2K in our own way. And at least they dropped their pet bunny in the most beautiful park in Vancouver to live out the rest of their days, and not, say, the creepy parking lot behind the Buy-Low.

Jericho Beach Bunnies Byron EggenschwilerByron Eggenschwiler

In fact, among the shrubs, blackberry bushes and sailboat storage facilities, these now-feral rabbits got comfortable. Perhaps too comfortable. They bred like, well, rabbits, and the population swelled—in the summer, ranks can grow to 250—which only seems to inspire more in-a-bind rabbit owners to ditch their own pets there, too. It’s a vicious—again, albeit adorable—cycle! 

But just because something is adorable, and just because these rabbits have bravely moved past their abandonment issues to gently eat celery right out of a vacationing German toddler’s hand, and just because one time I saw one actually kissing a mouse (!) like I was in some sort of Disney-sponsored fever dream, that doesn’t mean it’s responsible, or even legal, to leave your pet rabbit at the beach. You might think you’re just letting her live out her best Jimmy Buffett fantasy, but it is upsetting the balance of nature—the predator-prey power dynamic here is seriously bonkers (another scientific term)—and wreaking havoc on the landscape. In fact, abandoning your pet rabbit in the wild is actually a criminal act, defined as animal cruelty. Yes, they breed prolifically enough to storm the beaches like so many cotton-tailed troops at Normandy, but most are suburban softies with no street smarts who are just being served up on a platter to the area’s owls and coyotes. (This is also why I personally never go camping.) Ditch your bunny, and you’re setting them up for a decidedly unadorable demise.

So even if you think you’re doing little Dennis Hopper (dibs on this perfect rabbit name for any future rabbits that may come into my life, forever and ever, amen) a favour by taking him on a permanent beach vacation, can you imagine how humiliating it would be to get caught in a sting operation and go to jail for that? From behind bars, you’d be left dreaming of a day that someone might scoop you up, take you to the beach and never come back.

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