Regulatory changes have been made to the provincial Wildlife Act to help enhance government’s ability to manage feral rabbits and reduce their spread.
Wild European and eastern cottontail rabbits are non-native and are known to destroy property (including agricultural crops) and are detrimental to native wildlife and their habitats.
Under changes to the Designation and Exemption Regulations in the Wildlife Act, European and eastern cottontail rabbits can no longer be relocated or released into the wild.
As well, a permit will no longer be required for trafficking, possessing or exporting European rabbits, captive or not. This removes permit requirements for municipalities or other groups to trap rabbits and transport them to rehab centres or homes, or euthanize them.
These regulatory changes will improve the ability to move feral non-native rabbits from one location to another and support options for having existing non-native rabbits removed. The amendments are a first step to improve the management of feral rabbits in order to reduce their spread and minimize their impact on the environment.
All species of the family Leperidae (hares and rabbits) are designated as wildlife under the Wildlife Act. This includes native species such as snowshoe hares, as well as non-native species such as the European rabbit and eastern cottontail. Both European rabbits and eastern cottontails are considered invasive, non-native pests and as such, are managed under the Designation and Exemption Regulation in the act.