The future's not bright for the bunnies of Orange County

Click to follow
The Independent US

When the residents of the Casta del Sol retirement community in Orange County, California, open their blinds tomorrow morning and spy a rabbit or two nibbling the lawns, their first reaction might be to smile at the sweet Easter Bunny. On the other hand, it might be to grab their guns and blast the furry creatures to oblivion.

When the residents of the Casta del Sol retirement community in Orange County, California, open their blinds tomorrow morning and spy a rabbit or two nibbling the lawns, their first reaction might be to smile at the sweet Easter Bunny. On the other hand, it might be to grab their guns and blast the furry creatures to oblivion.

Never mind that it will be Easter Sunday, these Flopsies and Mopsies are not made of chocolate and, inside this gated complex at least, they are far from welcome. The otherwise gentle residents have just about had enough of them and are preparing to begin their own bunny cull with guns.

Rabbits are not as commonplace in most of America as they are in the gardens of Sussex or Lincolnshire, but they have staged a long-term invasion of Casta del Sol. The problem with their presence is familiar to any gardener. They scoff the spring shrubs and leave nasty, pellet-sized messes behind them.

The battle to chase them away has been long and frustrating. California law for a long time decreed shooting animals was illegal unless they were a threat to crops. That left only one option for Casta del Sol in Mission Veijo: they tried to catch the rabbits in traps and kill them with poison.

Neither strategy worked especially well. Worse, in 2001, state officials ordered a ban on the use of the rabbit poison, diphacinone, in urban settings. So, for the past four summers their lawns have been all but obscured by twitching-nosed rabbits blithely bobbing about.

But, in recognition of the residents' frustration, the rules have changed again. California has given the green light to anyone with a genuine rabbit grudge to grab a pellet gun and take their own deadly action. Last week, the city council in Mission Viejo passed its own regulation that gives the final blessing to the old folk at Casta del Sol to take up arms.

"It's a quality-of-life issue," Lance MacLean, a councilman, told the Los Angeles Times. "They're a pest. We really weren't left with a lot of options. We have tried trapping, so we've kind of gone to our last resort."

There was a plan to import foxes until someone said rabbits might not be the only animals to get eaten. So might the odd dachshund or pug.

The rabbit hunt will begin shortly, when the new regulations are officially posted, but the consequence may be another war. Appalled bunny-huggers are mobilising to protect the creatures.

"We think there are non-lethal solutions," Nicole Paquette, an attorney with the Sacramento-based Animal Protection Institute, told the newspaper. "Repellents can be used, shrubbery that's not attractive to rabbits can be planted, and fences can be built around yards."

But the residents will hear none of that. Who has ever heard of a shrub that a rabbit will not eat? (Aside from plastic ones.) And fences do not appeal to Americans as they do to British people.

Nor does it seem to bother anyone in the Casta del Sol that news of their impending bunny-hunt has broken on this of all weekends. "We were never thinking about Easter," said Maye Russ, who heads the community's beautification committee. "We've pretty much tried everything, but this is pretty much an impossible situation."

Comments