The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

Bill Johnson for Alaska House

By STEVEN WEBER
Valdez Star 

Funny bunny float brought humor to a very hare-y Valdez dilemma

Feral rabbits are universally loved or reviled by the town's human population

 

August 28, 2018

Steven Weber photo

"Valdez Dilemma" took first place in the non-business category earlier this month in the Gold Rush Days parade.

A long time ago in a little town by the sea, someone let loose with some domestic bunnies.

Since then, the bunnies have gone feral and have bred like – well – rabbits, and the swelling populations have created a dilemma amongst Valdez residents about what to do about it.

Two local residents, Katherine Walters and Mary Mehlberg - who are both on the fence - came up with the idea last summer of making a float for the 2018 Gold Rush Days Parade featuring the "Valdez Bunny Dilemma."

Their float took first place this year in the non-business category.

The inspiration came to Walters and Mehlberg when they were hoping to come up with something specific to Valdez and also funny. Ultimately, they simply wanted to ask the question to the community: "What should be done about the bunnies?"

Mehlberg, who dressed as Elmer Fudd, said "I just wanted Elmer Fudd and Mother Nature to get a good laugh."

And yes, the laughs were there.

"I feel sorry for the bunnies but they are not natural to our environment," said Walters, who dressed as Mother Nature, adding "I can see both sides, and I like them, but they shouldn't be here."

For Sara Kirby, who grew up in Valdez and now works at Bayside RV Park, the bunnies have been an interesting oddity to her.

"I grew up thinking those bunnies were supposed to be that way and were natural," Kirby said. "Tourists later started asking when I moved back to Valdez for the summers `where did the bunnies come from?' and that made for a few good laughs. Maybe someone should make a funny Valdez bunny t-shirt."

Judy Bartlett, owner of Chena RV Park, feels the goal should be for people to live in harmony with the bunnies now that they are here.

"If you have to worry about the bunnies, you have it made," Bartlett said.

Rabbits, which were part of the rodent family until they were re-classified in 1912 to the Lagomorpha order due to their extra pair of incisors and other skeletal features, have been known to spread disease including Tularemia or "Rabbit Fever" which according to the Mayo Clinic is rare but typically attacks the skin, eyes, lymph nodes and lungs.

Valdez Star photo

A bunny nibbles grass on Valdez City Hall's lawn.

There has been only one case of the disease verified in Alaska in the past decade according to Alaska Fish & Game, which was reported to have infected a North Pole man who had skinned a wild hare.

"Tularemia occurs sporadically in Alaska, and this marks the 30th case in 70 years," ADF&G reported on its website in 2015. "Interior Alaska accounts for about half the total cases, and Southeast Alaska has seen only one case."

Besides attracting additional predators to town - including coyotes, foxes and wolves - rabbits can also be quite destructive. It makes some people hopping mad. A number of complaints to city officials involve the bunnies destroying flower and vegetable gardens, and burrowing into buildings, sometimes eating through electrical wiring and telephone lines.

 

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