But some jump for joy over town’s feral rabbits
The town’s split over the feral rabbit population went to a higher level Monday night when Hedy Sarney, an owner of Anadyr Adventures on North Harbor Drive, addressed city council asking it act to eliminate the town’s bunnies.
“My problem is with the bunnies, the rabbits” Sarney said when she addressed the council when it opened its microphone to hear citizen concerns.
Sarney gave council an earful.
“They’ve gotten worse and worse,” she said, complaining the population of rabbits that breed wildly and freely in virtually all areas of Valdez.
Sarney reiterated complaints made to the newspaper in the past.
The bunnies routinely dig up her award-winning flower beds, which not only costs money, but decimates an appealing attraction to visitors. She claims the tourist that patronize her business or just walk by the storefront of the kayaking business, love her flower beds – when she can stay ahead of the rabbits.
“They have dug up roots,” she said, “they have eaten leaves” and ruined her perennial poppies.
Sarney advocates a total eradication of the town’s wild rabbit population.
The trouble is, for every person that share’s Sarney’s view on the bunnies, there is also a person that strongly advocates for the rabbits. They too are vocal. Very vocal.
Mayor Dave Cobb knows this all too well.
“You have to be able to comprise,” he said, stating there are just as many people in Valdez who love the rabbits and there are those that hate them. “It’s not an either or situation.”
Others, such as council member Karen Ables, dislike what the bunnies do, but get squeamish at the idea of killing animals.
“I absolutely don’t like the idea of killing,” she said, but decried bunny damages to her own pots of flowers in front of her own business, also located on North Harbor Drive.
Ables said she was hoping to be able to come up with some type of barrier method – maybe chicken wire – to grown vegetation while keeping the rabbits out.
She also postulated the idea of sending volunteers to Anadyr to help try to bunny-proof her garden.
Sarney was dubious and questioned the beauty (or lack thereof) and efficiency of chicken wire in a flower garden.
At least one council member agreed with Sarney.
“Long-eared rats,” council member Joe Prax said, and likened feeding the wild bunnies with feeding a wild dog pack.
“You can’t feed a stray dog,” and expect it to go away, he said.
Earlier in her address to council, Sarney suggested the city trap all the rabbits, put them up for adoption at the Valdez Animal Shelter, and simply euthanize any that are not adopted as pets.
John Hozey, city manager, injected his take on the situation.
“To eradicate all the animals (rabbits) in town is not a simple solution,” he said.
No one truly knows the number of wild rabbits that inhabit Valdez. Many are kept as quasi pets by business owners and employees. There are also a number of households that routinely feed bunnies on or near their homes.
According to news reports from the ten years ago, the downtown rabbit population fluctuated greatly from year to year and was mostly confined to the area of the now defunct Sea Otter RV Park on the Valdez Spit.
Winter’s deprivation and predators take out the largest number of the bunnies in winter, but the population always bounces back, similar to what happens in nature, except that in the true wild, no one feeds the rabbits when natural food is scarce.
Populations also followed a similar pattern in the outlying subdivisions, where the presence of the bunnies is equally controversial.
Gardens are not the only casualty of the presence of feral rabbits. The undersides of building – wiring insulation for example – are often chewed up by nesting bunnies, in addition to the holes they dig in the ground or through walls.
In the past few years, a handful of people have been cited by law enforcement for killing or harassing the rabbits, while some actively provide homes for the bunnies, even taking injured or sick ones to the veterinarian for treatment.
A few are adopted out as pets at the Valdez Animal Shelter when well meaning citizens trap the controversial rabbits.
While the bunnies make some hopping mad - and others jump for joy - it is clear there is no easy solution for the exploding population. After all, they breed like rabbits.