Dumping of pet rabbits is not only cruel, it is illegal.
It is a criminal act under the Criminal Code of Canada1, and an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (BC)2. It is also illegal to abandon an animal in most states in the USA, whether by dumping it in a public place or leaving it anywhere without providing for its needs.1Government of Canada, 1985, Cruelty to Animals. Criminal Code of Canada, Section 446.1b.
2Government of British Columbia, 1996, Offences. Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, Section 24(1).
Domestic vs. Wild Rabbits
A newly dumped domestic pet rabbit will stand out to humans and predators alike, thus they typically do not last long in the wild. If you are looking at a big white rabbit with pink eyes, one with floppy ears, or one with a fuzzy mane or long-hair, these are likely recently dumped pets. They will often die from starvation or are killed by a predator or a car as they do not have the natural survival instincts of a wild rabbit.
A ‘wild’ rabbit in British Columbia is an Eastern Cottontails or a hare. Their brown ‘ticked’ colour (called agouti) can also be the colour of a domestic rabbit, but cottontails are more angular with thicker hind legs. Cottontails don’t burrow, other than to make shallow impressions in the ground for their nests, and their kits born with fur. Conversely, loose domestic rabbits tend to burrow on hillsides and under structures and give birth to naked babies underground.
Feral rabbits are not wild rabbits. They are rabbits that are born outside, the offspring of dumped domestic rabbits. They tend to stay near humans (and away from predators) and remain friendly (until you try to catch them). They look like domestic rabbits, and can be a variety of colors.
Think you’ve found a loose domestic breed rabbit but aren’t sure? Take a picture and email us at email@example.com and we’d be happy to help determine if it’s wild or domestic, make sure you note the location.
We are only looking for reports on loose domestic breed rabbits. Reports of injured wild rabbits should go to your local wildlife rehabilitation center.