It was no joke when 40 volunteers showed up on April 1 at a park in Orlando to catch bunnies.
It sounds like a strange Easter event, but in reality it was a rescue effort aimed at securing dozens of domesticated rabbits that had been making the park their home.
The rescue was orchestrated by Orlando Rabbit Care & Adoptions (ORCA), which had received reports that as many as 50 rabbits were in Azalea Park, according to a statement from the group.
People magazine shared that reports of domestic rabbits at the park began in November after an unknown person apparently abandoned three unwanted pets. A few months later, there were far more than three rabbits making the park their home.
As news went out about the rabbits’ location, breeders reportedly visited to make their own catches, snake owners came to try to capture free food, and perhaps others visited to drop off their own bunnies they’d grown tired of until the released former pets started to take over the area.
“When you’re first coming down the block, you’ll see little ears coming out of the grass,” ORCA volunteer Stephanie Gal’lino said, according to People.
“They’re in yards, under sheds, next to cars, running down the street. They’re everywhere you look.”
Dana Krempels, a senior lecturer in the University of Miami’s biology department, said a rabbit can produce one to 14 babies about every 30 days and can get pregnant again the day she gives birth, according to Yahoo News.
Krempels said a single pair of rabbits can produce nearly 4 million offspring in four years.
The Orlando rabbits, being the domesticated sort, weren’t primed for life in the wild, so some fell victim to various ailments, and others were run over by cars.
Clearly, something had to be done — but the rescue effort would have to be a clean sweep, as leaving even one pregnant bunny behind would start the entire cycle over. So on April 1, the team of volunteers geared up for some serious rabbit wrangling.
“Original estimates suggested that 30-50 rabbits were roaming the neighborhood,” the ORCA statement said. “We successfully rescued 23 rabbits ranging in age from a few weeks old to adults.
“Sadly, we heard that one neighbor found 10-15 dead from suspected poisoning. The roundup crew also found 3 bodies.”
Some of the rascally rabbits were treated for parasites, some needed other kinds of medical attention, and two appeared to be pregnant. They’re being kept in a temporary location, though the rescue crew is seeking a new, air conditioned space to house them.
Neighbors were left with the rescue’s contact information so they could reach out if and when they spotted any stragglers.
The volunteers who undertook the massive bunny hunt were locals, including officers with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
“WHAT’S UP, DOC?” the Sheriff’s Office shared on Facebook on April 4. “On Friday night, OCSO Deputy Justin Sorrell (left) and Corporal Evan Avila (right) were on hand for a bunny rescue in Azalea Park organized by the Orlando Rabbit Care & Adoptions.
“Since last year, the east Orange County neighborhood has seen a huge influx of rabbits. The group rescued 23 bunnies on Friday night. The bunnies are being treated and assessed and will be up for adoption soon.”
Hopefully the group will be able to remove all the bunnies and find them new, permanent homes where they will be cared for and avoid the risks associated with life in the wild.