The Canmore bunnies
Mention the Canmore bunnies to any dedicated gardener in South Canmore and you're sure to see them grinding their teeth while they contemplate what to say about their nemesis.
What is it about these cute furry lagomorphs that has divided the downtown area into bunny lovers and bunny haters? And where did the bunnies come from?
[Lagomorphs, order Lagomorpha, are an order of mammals of which there are two families, Leporidae (hares and rabbits), and Ochotonidae (pikas).]
In the mid 1980's someone released about a dozen of their domestic rabbits into South Canmore and rather than becoming coyote snacks they survived, thrived and today are the most famous residents that Canmore has.
Love 'em or loathe 'em the Canmore bunnies have made South Canmore their home, and while they don't throw wild parties, bark or even whimper, the sight of them casually munching away throughout the day seems to generate more than a little controversy.
The bunny population has also been reportedly taking a road trip, with appearances in the Exshaw community a few kilometres east of Canmore. Plus venturing into other areas of Canmore with Larch and Teepee Town all reporting new furry residents.
The Town of Canmore is between a rock and a hard place on the bunny issue and in Winter 2011/12 they finally hired a contractor to trap the bunnies.
This caused general outrage with animal lovers, though it appears that some of the most vociferous weren't actually Canmore residents, including one Edmonton person who tried to take the issue to the courts.
Earthanimal Humane Education and Rescue Society (EARS website) were able to raise enough donations to pay for some of the trapped bunnies to be spayed or neutered, then retired to bunny sanctuaries generously set up and run by lagomorph lovers.
At the conclusion of the first trapping season just 189 bunnies were trapped and passed to EARS for sanctuary. At a cost of $10,000 per month to the Canmore taxpayer, each bunny cost the taxpayer $157, add to that the $130 per spay/neuter/retire spent by EARS, each bunny cost $287. There were no euthanizations, but more than a few bunny babies also put in an appearance.
In Winter 2012/13 the trapping will recommence. EARS will also hopefully be recommencing their spay/neuter/retire programme. In the meantime any donations to EARS will be very welcome.
If you want to get a few photos of Canmore's famous furry friends then the South Canmore area (1st to 5th St) is the best area to provide you with evidence, though they are more elusive to find now since the trapping was commenced... it's as if they know.
The best times for bunny stalking are early morning and mid to late afternoon, avoid mid-day, as like the camera crew at the height of the 2006 bunny media reporting frenzy who drove around for 2 hours in the middle of the day asking residents where the bunnies were, you won't generally see them.
Look out for the really cute baby bunnies grazing on the juiciest grass and plants they can locate, and their patient parents sunning themselves, paws outstretched and completely oblivious to the ongoing controversy, while stressed gardeners plant their bulbs and erect wire fences around their prized blooms.
Meanwhile the bunnies look on...