Rabbits Are Taking Over This Small Island City

Local officials are considering bringing in falcons to reduce the rabbit population.

It might sound like the world’s cutest infestation, but for the city of Langley, Washington, it’s a serious problem.

Langley, located on Whidbey Island, has been overrun with “countless” wild rabbits, according to Seattle news station King 5.

"There is feces everywhere and there are some illnesses that can be carried and transmitted," Brian Miller, facilities director for South Whidbey School District, told the station. He added that rabbits recently dug up the middle school’s football field, which the district had to pay $80,000 to restore.

Langley has had an abundance of rabbits for years -- one Seattle-based blog even names the animals as an attraction to see on Whidbey Island. The island's official website attributes the booming population to several domestic rabbits escaping from a fair, which the South Whidbey Record says occurred in 2001.

The damage to the football field prompted district officials to declare the bunnies a safety hazard in August, and some local gardeners are complaining that the rabbits are eating all of their plants. Another local resident told King 5 that around 100 rabbits were born on her property alone last year.

But many residents don't want to see the rabbits totally eradicated, and it seems town officials are on their side.
“I don’t think we’re going to get into the business of trapping and euthanizing rabbits,” Mayor Fred McCarthy told the Record in January. “I don’t think that would go over well in Langley.”

Langley Police Chief Dave Marks added, “I’m not into killing animals for no reason.”

In August, McCarthy told the Record that public backlash wasn't the only factor preventing the city from hiring contractors to trap and euthanize the rabbits -- it’s also too expensive.

Officials are, however, toying with the idea of introducing natural predators to help control the population. Last week, falconer Steve Layman met with town and school district representatives, including McCarthy, to talk about potentially using hawks to restore balance to the ecosystem and keep the rabbits from overpopulating.

The Langley mayor's office could not be reached for comment.

Contact the author of this article at Hilary.Hanson@huffingtonpost.com.

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