Wild rabbits of Jericho Beach: The hares are still there (Photo set)
Let's hang out with some beautiful beach bunnies. Learn more about their place in Vancouver.
Surrounded by beach bunnies
The other day I brought my camera down to Jericho Beach to photograph my friends, the wild rabbits. Encouraged by last summer’s wild rabbit photoset, I wanted to expand my rabbit portraiture. However, it took a few visits to amass enough images to satisfy. Where are all the rabbits? With all the construction along Jericho Beach, those with whom I spoke professed a sense of dread: Was the rabbit population displaced? “There just aren't as many here as there were last year,” said the elderly woman, sitting on a bench at Jericho Beach Park, gazing out across the lawn toward the beach.
Behind her, two rabbits sat grazing silently on the tasty, tasty grass. They sensed movement, and in a flash they were gone.
We got the bunnies, honey
Jericho Beach is home to a large and celebrated feral rabbit population. Visiting them is popular with children and grown-ups alike. Jericho Beach is like so many other neighbourhoods in Vancouver: a voiceless community is threatened by development, their way of life in question.
In this case, we’re not talking about condo towers, but a new wharf. The Marginal Wharf was a little too marginal, and the City decided that it had to go.
What would this mean for the rabbits of Jericho Beach?
Rabbits are silent, and they are extremely sensitive to noise, as the relative size of their ears would suggest. The Beach Bunnies hate joggers talking on their phones almost as much as they hate helicopters flying overhead, which perhaps they see as particularly fearsome owls. You can imagine how they’d feel about heavy construction equipment, especially if a bulldozer came anywhere near their ‘hood.
Just keep it down, will ya?
Or maybe my rabbit friends’ priorities have changed since last summer. You know how it is, you have 17 kids, you can’t just go hang out at the drop of a hat.
No coney is an island
Vancouver Parks Board Chair (and skateboard activist) Sarah Blyth spoke with me about the Jericho Beach renovation project and its impact on the rabbits. “There was concern with the redevelopment [and how it would affect] the bunnies.”
The City consulted several conservation groups, including the Rabbit Advocacy Group, on how to keep the Jericho Beach rabbit population safe during the renovation process. In an email, Carmina Gooch of the Rabbit Advocacy Group writes, "We had regular meetings with Park development and operations staff throughout the project. Our primary concern was that the habitat, such as the blackberry bushes, would be cut back too much and too fast, leaving the rabbits more vulnerable to predators than they already were. We were notified of planned work and did walk-throughs throughout the stages of the project."
Said Blyth, “We were very, very interested in making sure the bunnies were okay. Safety was at the top of mind during the whole thing.”
I want that in writing.
There wasn’t any sort of rabbit cull during the wharf demolition, nor were the rabbits forcibly relocated. Rather, the park's renovation was carried out around the rabbits and their habitat. “We hired a biologist to look at that. […] Everyone was together on the fact that the bunnies were to be okay during the renovations.”
Blyth mentioned that the rabbit population changes based on time of year, and she would know: Blyth takes her son down to Jericho to visit the rabbits all the time. As is often the case with all things fluffy, it’s not really about the kid: “I keep a close eye on the bunnies, because I love them.”
Rabbits are not native to Point Grey, but look, they’re there now, and they have a right to exist. A lot of these Beach Bunnies are abandoned pets, or, as Blyth put it, “apartment-reject bunnies”. Those enamored of rabbits quickly find out what high-maintenance pets they are, and sometimes abandon them to the wild. Those not so enamored of rabbits see them as pests, rapaciously laying waste to precious gardens. Rarely is a creature so simultaneously loved and loathed.