There are many off-color jokes that abound that reference how quickly rabbits reproduce. It was no accident that Hugh Hefner put bunny ears and tails on his sexy models.
Rapid reproduction turnaround isn’t always a joke though. It can be a pretty big problem if bunnies start to multiply in a place that doesn’t have enough resources to keep them all fed and watered.
That was what happened when someone at a mental health facility in Las Vegas had the brilliant idea of turning four or five dozen un-sterilized rabbits loose on their grounds. Apparently, they had somehow missed the jokes and had no idea what was destined to happen.
They thought it would create a peaceful scene for patients to have bunnies hopping around on the lawn. It was pretty cute to them too when some of those bunnies turned up with babies bouncing along behind them.
By the time Stacey Taylor and her son happened by the facility those few dozen bunnies had multiplied to over 1200. Maybe more. They stopped counting when they got that far!
Looking a bit like an explosion in a stuffed bunny factory, at first glance, it was every bit bucolic and peaceful as the original idea had expected.
At first, Taylor and her son were mesmerized by the sight. “We saw all of these bunnies everywhere,” Taylor told The Dodo. “I had no idea about rabbits. I assumed they were wild or whatever.”
Her interest was piqued by the sight of so many rabbits of so many differing shapes, sizes, colors and coat types.
After just the first bit of research, she realized that the rabbits were not common wild rabbits, called Cottontails or Hares. These were in fact domesticated rabbits of what had probably originally been several pure breeds.
She learned that domesticated rabbits have been bred as a completely different species than their wild cousin, and cannot interbreed with them. So, every rabbit she was seeing hopping around the facility grounds looking for food was, in fact, a pet rabbit that had been turned loose into the wild. Or its offspring.
Taylor tried every avenue possible to figure out where the rabbits came from…and how to staunch the flow of new rabbits that were flooding the property almost faster than she could count. “The story we get over and over is that someone thought … [the rabbits] would be a good idea and soothing for the patients,” Taylor said. “So they put about 40 to 60 unfixed rabbits on the property.”
Taylor believes that probably a lot of local folks had used the facility as a dumping ground for unwanted pet rabbits. Maybe believing they would be happy living there roaming free.
Quite the opposite was true though. The rabbits were having a hard time getting enough food to stay alive, much less do the procreating that rabbits begin doing when they are as little as four months old.
Their gestation period (the length of time a mama doe carries her babies before they are born) is just one month. Even simple math will show you why the numbers were growing so quickly. Something had to be done.
And Taylor was just the woman to that something. As soon as she realized that the bunnies were not getting enough nutritious food, living entirely on grass and the unhealthy treats that guests were feeding them, she jumped right on the problem.
Local rescues were concerned, but no one had the space to take in a thousand rabbits. Especially since only a small fraction of them had any chance of being adopted out.
So, when no one else jumped at the chance to help her, Taylor burrowed into the problem and created her own rescue. She and her friend Dave Schweiger founded and run a group called Bunnies Matter in Vegas Too.
If a rabbit can be picked up easily, it isn’t safe. Trusting humans can be as deadly to a rabbit as a dog with a strong prey drive. Far too many people want to adopt a rabbit for very wrong reasons.
“I actually ran into a guy who was trying to catch them for dogfighting,” Taylor said. “I had said to him, ‘You shouldn’t be feeding them that kind of lettuce — here are some carrots and some romaine. Iceberg lettuce holds no nutritional value for them.’ And he said, ‘I don’t care about nutrition. They’re bait — they’re going to make the dogs fight.’ I called the police and they took a report, and they got his license plate number.”
It’s that kind of bone-chilling story that makes the plight of these rabbits hit home. Hard and fast.
It’s a little overwhelming to be facing those kinds of numbers of very vulnerable little creatures needing a helping hand. But, Taylor is out there twice a day, carrying nutritional pellets and quality treats. When she can catch someone, it leaves with her.
Sometimes a foster can’t be found. In that case, Taylor carries them home with her. But only after they’ve been vet checked, vaccinated and spayed or neutered. She had hoped to implement a “trap and release program” like some cities have begun to control the numbers of feral cats.
When she suggested it to area officials, she was told that if she was caught releasing rabbits back into the area, she would be charged for dumping them.
So, she is faced with not only feeding and caring for the thousand or so rabbits still breeding like crazy, but with the hundreds they have caught and sterilized.
“It’s kind of like this big circle that never ends. We can’t fix them, and they just keep breeding, and they can have litters every 30 days,” Taylor said.
The breeding cycle of rabbits is fascinating indeed. A mother rabbit will breed back days after delivering a litter of babies. By the time those babies are weaned and ready to start fending for themselves she gives birth to the next batch.
The House Rabbit Society calculates that ONE unspayed female rabbit can be responsible for 3,745,584 baby rabbits in its lifetime. That is THREE MILLION, SEVEN HUNDRED AND FORTY FIVE THOUSAND, FIVE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY FOUR! Rabbits!
Source: The Dodo