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365 Urban Species. #218: Domestic Rabbit


Photos by urbpan . Location: University of Victoria campus, British Columbia.

Urban species #218: Domestic rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus

Domestic animals often find their way into the ecology of urban places. They owe their very existence to humanity and civilization. But humans are flawed stewards, and will allow their animals to escape, or through a misunderstanding of "wildness," will turn pets, livestock, and lab animals out of their enclosures. And then there are the countless deliberate introductions, for the sake of sport hunting, or to seed an island with edible inhabitants, which have wrought destruction on ecosystems around the world. In North America domestic rabbits run free because a pet was no longer wanted, an animal mistaken for wild was "liberated," or because a bunny was only meant to be an Easter gift. The vast majority of released rabbits live short brutal lives, their flight-or-fight instincts blunted by centuries of breeding for life in the hutch. A released domestic rabbit has a life span of somewhere between one and two years, according to the House Rabbit Society, and other sources. In Australia, European rabbits (the wild ancestors of domestic rabbits) have run roughshod through the country, and constitute a serious ecological problem.

In North America, there are a few small cities that harbor breeding populations of domestic rabbits. The requirements for a population to become established include plants to eat, soil to burrow into for protection, and a single month to reproduce. Predators of rabbits are many, but their famously high rate of reproduction may overtake the rate of predation. On the campus of the University of Victoria, British Columbia, for example, the rabbits are well-loved by most of the students, and relatively safe from human predation, at least. University campuses are generally free of roaming dogs and cats, and most wild predators (notwithstanding the occasional mountain lion report at UVic) tend to avoid urban areas.

Some more discussion of urban rabbits occurs here.


( 38 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 11th, 2006 01:46 am (UTC)
Oh mine. Wabbits!

I saw feral ones in Denver, Colorado. Cute. But I wonder how they figure in the local ecology.
Aug. 11th, 2006 01:53 am (UTC)
Poor abandoned bunnies... There's a park out here where sometime after every easter they round up scores of the little guys. I saw a few last time I was over there, very shy and skinny... not adjusting to being "wild" very well.

Aug. 14th, 2006 02:50 am (UTC)
I like that. I hate when people think it's cute to get a rabbit or a baby chicken just for a holiday thing.
Aug. 14th, 2006 10:26 pm (UTC)
I borrowed that image from the other common phrase is "Make mine chocolate!" in regards to easter bunnies. Poor things. The baby chicks are so sad, for some reason it never occurs to people that they grow up to be chickens and roosters!
Aug. 11th, 2006 02:03 am (UTC)
I meant to say something when my in-laws were visiting. They spent a month in Duluth earlier this summer, and my MIL mentioned how they'd seen this neighborhood full of black and white bunnies - all sorts of colors. I managed to impress/scare her when I said I'd heard of them.
Aug. 11th, 2006 02:04 am (UTC)
They're fairly common in my neighborhood. In fact we have a family of rabbits that lives under our garden shed. We try to protect them from dogs etc. when they come out and nibble on our pesticide-free lawn.
Aug. 11th, 2006 02:12 am (UTC)
ah the ur_buns :)
Aug. 11th, 2006 02:32 am (UTC)
Several acquaintances have told me they chose UVic _because of the rabbits_. =)

- random UVic student
Aug. 11th, 2006 02:44 am (UTC)
Icon love!!
Those penguins were in South America, weren't they? I think I remember hearing something about penguins wearing sweaters....
Aug. 11th, 2006 03:01 am (UTC)
Australia, actually. There was an oil spill, and to keep the poor spilled-on penguins warm, the locals solicited knitted penguin-sweaters from all over the world. Apparently they got WAY more than they needed so now somewhere there is a warehouse of penguin-sweaters...

Anyway, I just heard about it on the CBC and grabbed the picture from Google. =)
Aug. 11th, 2006 06:38 am (UTC)
They sell them in the gift shop and at fundraisers.
Aug. 11th, 2006 03:01 am (UTC)
Thanks! =) They're in Australia, actually. There was an oil spill, and to keep the poor spilled-on penguins warm, the locals solicited knitted penguin-sweaters from all over the world. Apparently they got WAY more than they needed so now somewhere there is a warehouse of penguin-sweaters... (or maybe they've since been sent to South America??)

Anyway, I just heard about it on the CBC and grabbed the picture from Google. =)
Aug. 11th, 2006 02:34 am (UTC)
What is it about university campuses and rabbits?

Murdoch University in Perth, where I studied, has loads of rabbits too. And the odd Southern Brown Bandicoot, which is actually native.
Aug. 11th, 2006 03:27 am (UTC)
The University of the Sunshine Coast, my old alma mater, has rabbits too. But they're very much a prey species - I'd sit at the bus stop some days and watch raptors hovering above the grassland, then *bam*, one less bunny.

USC also has a population of Eastern Grey kangaroos, bandicoots (though I only ever saw one) and more birdlife than I care to name, including a crow that would steal cigarettes from the back decs of the res I lived at, to be ferretted away in the guttering for later.
Aug. 11th, 2006 05:04 am (UTC)
O_o I didn't see any rabbits when I was studying in WA (I graduated from UWA). Only a lot of kookaburras, the usual flock of parakeets and the odd peacock (UWA has them - they normally lurk around the Arts Faculty building).
Aug. 11th, 2006 02:35 am (UTC)
its is also little known that the microsoft campus has a thriving rabbit population.
Aug. 11th, 2006 04:17 am (UTC)
I found a bunny once on my way to the train from Franklin Park. I asked around, and no one seemed to know whose it was, so I put her in my bag and took her home. :) She was pretty good for the train ride - she squirmed a bit, but not too much. I put signs up, and somebody called and left a halted message and I never got a hold of them. We bought her a big ol' cage, named her Bundito, and had her for a few years. Unfortunately, she wasn't super-friendly, and at the time there wasn't a good place to let her roam around the house. When we bought our new place, it would have been a much better set-up for her, but she died before we moved. :( Ah well, she had it pretty good - better than out on the streets.

Also, since this comment isn't nearly long enough, someone 'dropped off' some bunnies at Stone several years ago. They had to round them up and we kept them in the barnyard area for a while, before they eventually went to Franklin. I found one sick one day in the winter, and she died in my arms wrapped in my jacket.

Damn, none of my bunny stories have happy endings!
Aug. 11th, 2006 04:18 am (UTC)
Awww, I love bunnies!
Aug. 11th, 2006 05:47 am (UTC)
I hope somebody rescues them before something else gets them. I'm trying not to let my rant about idiots who let domestic rabbits "run free" escape and blow up all over here.
Aug. 11th, 2006 08:01 am (UTC)
There were feral rabbits in the park in Tilburg, The Netherlands when I lived there. I'd say (and I'm just guessing here) there are so many wild rabbits here in Ireland that any escapees get swallowed up in the wild population...

This is the coolest lj ever by the way. I joined yesterday.
Aug. 11th, 2006 09:37 am (UTC)

I'm guilt free.
Aug. 11th, 2006 01:30 pm (UTC)
good lord... I'm highly allergic to wabbits... i mean rabbits. If these trends continue, I'll be forced to live in a plastic bubble.

Aug. 11th, 2006 03:24 pm (UTC)
When we were first checking out the neighborhood I'm currently in We drove by in the evening and saw a rabbit on someones lawn. Apparently Chris saw them nearly every night on her way home. About a year ago, the people who owned the rabbits started letting them loose in the day as well and it wasn't unusual for me to find one hanging out in my yard, even though they lived at the other end of the block. They were great fun for the neighborhood kids, they were very friendly and didn't seem to mind being picked up and smothered with love. That family moved away about six months ago and took their rabbits with them. It was definitely a loss for the neighborhood.
Aug. 11th, 2006 04:37 pm (UTC)
We don't know how big the rabbits are because you didn't put a ruler next to them. :(
Aug. 11th, 2006 04:50 pm (UTC)
Heeeee can we please say this for every species from now on?? Heeeeeeheeeeeeeee.
Aug. 11th, 2006 06:09 pm (UTC)
they could be HUGE or teeny. we'll never know *sobs*
Aug. 12th, 2006 05:23 pm (UTC)
There are both huge ones at least a foot long and baby ones at the moment.
Aug. 12th, 2006 05:49 pm (UTC)
lol!! sorry, that was totally a tongue in cheek comment in reference to this delightful individual.
Aug. 11th, 2006 05:57 pm (UTC)
i see bunnies from time to time here in ga. i don't know if they're feral or not. i think it's a mix of domesticated and wild. but i understand why it is so sad to see "easter" bunnies that have been carelessly cast out.. which i think is horribly cruel. of course i think basically throwing away any animal is mean. but that's just me. but i see them hopping from time to time in my complex. we have a lot of woods where i live,,, so they have a good place to hide and live i suppose? i actually saw a dead one this morning in the middle of the road outside my work.. which is an industrial park. i was so sad! it was all dead and run over.. but it's little bunny ears were still sticking up! it was horrible!!!
Aug. 11th, 2006 07:57 pm (UTC)
Click the link in the last sentence above (or the tag: rabbits) to see an urban wild rabbit for comparison. Domestic rabbits are descended from European rabbits, which cannot interbreed with North American rabbits (which are usually called "cottontails" to distinguish them.)
Aug. 11th, 2006 09:33 pm (UTC)
Aww, rabbits. That makes me want to go to University of Victoria now. =)
Aug. 12th, 2006 12:25 am (UTC)
We have a rabbit living in our backyard, I see it every know and then.
Aug. 12th, 2006 01:09 am (UTC)
Being a UVic student, I see the bunnies every day!
Aug. 12th, 2006 03:16 pm (UTC)
How do you like the school? UVic has joined my fantasies of what to do with my life.
Aug. 12th, 2006 05:33 pm (UTC)
Having only been to post-secondary at UVic, it's difficult to compare to other schools, but in my program (B.SEng), the department's quite confused at the moment. It's a new degree, and they're still working out the problems with it.

Most of the conventional programs (sciences, humanities, etc.) seem to be decent. If you're looking at Biology (wild guess here), you might want to talk to arwyn , as she just completed her undergrad degree in Biology and is probably more familiar with the department than I am.

Tuition's decent for in-province students, the bureaucracy isn't too overwhelming (unless you work at the University), and the attitudes of the students are generally liberal.
Aug. 12th, 2006 02:54 am (UTC)
It makes me sad to see dumped bunnies. Both of my bunnies had been dumped before they came to the center, and I've had to nurse others back to health and plumpness.
Aug. 12th, 2006 05:24 pm (UTC)
Most of the bunnies at UVic are well plumped. Not only do they have a very large amount of grass to eat, but humans feed them all the time. Most of the rabbits are tame enough that if you approach them crouching down with your hand out, they'll come up to you to try to get the food out of your hand (whether you have any or not).
Aug. 12th, 2006 06:34 pm (UTC)
Be that as it may, it's my feeling that they shouldn't be out there in the first place, and I say that as a bunny slave and a wildlife rehabilitator. I guess I see it differently because I'm used to receiving and caring for domestic animals that have been dumped like inconvenient garbage. :/
( 38 comments — Leave a comment )


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