A lionhead rabbit hops down the road in Wilton Manors, Florida. The neighborhood now has 60 to 100 of the rabbits. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
They are called lionhead rabbits. That’s because of the fluff around their heads. The bunnies can be found all over Wilton Manors, Florida.
The bunnies are just the latest invasive species in the state. Invasive species live somewhere they don’t belong.
A backyard breeder at Wilton Manors let some rabbits loose two years ago. They’ve been digging holes, chewing wires, and having babies ever since.
Alicia Griggs lives in Wilton Manors. She is trying to raise money for a rabbit rescue. She wants the bunnies safe inside homes. She wants to keep them away from cars, cats, hawks, and Florida heat. She also doesn’t want the city to kill them.
Rescue would cost $20,000 to $40,000. A rescue group would have to catch the 60 to 100 bunnies. It would have to feed and care for them. It would have to stop them from having babies.
It isn’t easy to find homes for rabbits. People often choose not to raise rabbits when they learn what they need.
“They have to eat a special diet,” Griggs said. “You can’t just throw any table scraps at them.” Also, few animal doctors treat rabbits.
Not All Warm and Fuzzy
The city voted to kill the rabbits, but it is giving Griggs time to get the rescue money.
The rabbits don’t hurt any wildlife. They are the ones at risk. As pets, they can live 7 to 9 years. Outdoors, they don’t live long. They can’t live in high heat. Grass isn’t good for them to eat. They’re easy for other animals to catch and kill. They need owners.
Some people in the neighborhood don’t like the mess the bunnies leave behind. Others don’t mind the bunnies. Gator Carter says they bring joy.
“People drive by, stop, love ’em, feed ’em. They don’t bother me,” he said.
Jon King wants the rabbits gone soon. He spent $200 to fix outdoor lighting that they chewed. His little dog doesn’t scare the bunnies at all.
“He’s their best friend,” King said. “I like them, I just wish they would go somewhere else. Rescue would be great.”
Florida has many invasive species. They include Burmese pythons, lionfish, giant African snails, and more. That’s why the city has been slow to help, Griggs said.
“They think that if they do that, then they’ll have to get rid of … everything else that people don’t want around.”
The rabbits can have a lot of babies quickly. Starting at three months old, females have two to six babies each month.
n. soft hair or threads
n. group of animals or plants that are similar and can produce young animals or plants
v. collect money for something
n. type of birds that kill other birds and animals for food
n. pieces of food that are not eaten and could be thrown away
v. cause someone to feel annoyed, troubled, or worried
get rid of
(phrasal verb) cause something to be gone