British Columbia Ministry of Forests to Weaken Protections for Wild Rabbits

The Invasive Species Council of British Columbia hosted a webinar outlining proposed changes to the province’s Wildlife Act's Designation and Exemption Regulation which would make it easier to capture and kill wild European and Eastern Cottontail rabbits. Although very different types of rabbits, both species are listed under Schedule C of the Regulation which are exempted from the Act’s hunting licensing provisions under s.11(1).  According to the webinar hosted by the Invasive Species Council of British Columbia and the speaker Naomi Nichol, Senior Policy analyst at the Fish and Wildlife Branch of the Ministry of Forests, wildlife centres that cannot house or rehome rabbits brought to them will be forced to euthanize the rabbits under the proposed legislation, as no release back into the wild even of rehabilitated cottontails will be permitted. Wildlife organization The Fur-Bearers criticized the proposed changes, taking issue with how removing permit requirements will also remove oversight for accountability and transparency for large scale culls and may lead to increased animal cruelty or killing of non-target rabbit species. They also point out that the prohibition on wildlife centres rehabilitating and releasing cottontails will cause individuals to keep those animals as pets when that is inappropriate for that species of rabbit. Feral European “pet” rabbits abandoned by humans who have reproduced in the wild might be difficult to keep as companion animals. However, such rehoming is not possible for the cottontails. A written version of the proposed changes are not yet publicly available. Read The Fur-Bearers blog post here, and watch the webinar here.