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BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - A Boynton Beach neighborhood is up to its ears in rabbits, and a nonprofit group is trying to catch them all.
The furry four-legged friends started to show up years ago when people began abandoning them at Pioneer Canal Park, just east of I-95 and north of Boynton Beach Boulevard, according to Luz Pereira, spokeswoman for East Coast Rabbit Rescue.
Pereira presumes they were Easter gifts that were quickly tossed aside and then let go in the park after the holiday.
“We think there are up to 100,” Pereira said.
However, these domesticated rabbits are more susceptible to diseases and fleas than wild rabbits would be. They can’t fend well for themselves and lack proper nutrition.
They also are attracting unwanted wildlife — fox, for example — and the group suspects that some people are purposely injuring or killing the rabbits.
Anyway, everyone knows what rabbits do best, and the situation has multiplied out of control.
“Right when you pull in, you see about 50 right away, at least that’s what you see, so you assume there are multiple generations, and hundreds more,” Pereira said.
The rabbits have made burrows under people’s homes and other structures around the park.
To capture them, volunteers set up cages, which are propped up with sticks attached to strings. When a rabbit hops in, you pull the string.
The bunnies have proved to be more difficult to catch, as they’ve been able to squeeze through the holes.
So far, East Coast Rabbit Rescue has rounded up just over 30.
After they are caught, they bring them home and then go about finding veterinary care for them. They need to be spayed and neutered, treated for fleas and ticks, plus some have caught diseases.
The cost of such a feat is mounting.
“The thing people need to know is that they have no voice. Bunnies do not complain like every other animal does,” Pereira said. “It’s really important that people be their voice.”
Monica Mitchell started the nonprofit about a year and a half ago. She was working at another animal rescue group, and when it folded she started this one.
She says she simply cannot stand by and do nothing.
“(I do this) because I have seen so much suffering, and I want to make a difference,” Mitchell said. “I want to rescue as many of these rabbits that I can and give them the best life possible.”
Click here to volunteer to help catch the rabbit, donate goods or find out more.