Photo by Chelsea Lincoln
We've had many people ask us why these bunnies need to be rescued when they appear to be thriving. The reality is that they are good at reproducing, so the population is surviving, but the individual rabbits are not thriving. Do you ever notice the abundance of young rabbits in Cannon Beach? This is likely due to the fact that the lifespan of rabbits left to live outside is drastically lower than it would be if they were properly protected, fed, and cared for. Domestic rabbits on average live up to 10 years, often even to 11-13 years. In the wild, they face many dangers and illnesses. The younger rabbits may be more susceptible to parasitic infestation and illness. Decades of inbreeding also can be detrimental to their immune systems and overall health. So why do the bunnies of Cannon Beach need to be rescued? There are many reasons!
Click on each of the photos below to learn more about why rescuing is important!
Okay let's jump into the reasons why the bunnies of Cannon Beach need to be rescued, starting with lack of proper nutrition! Domestic bunnies require unlimited access to hay or grass (ideally timothy hay). The hay not only provides essential nutrients, but allows the bunnies to wear down their molars, which are constantly growing. Molar overgrowth can cause teeth to poke the gums, causing discomfort, even preventing them from eating altogether. At Cannon Beach, there is a considerable amount of green grass, but there will be periods of time each year where the grass may be frozen or covered in snow. During those times, they have no access to the most important part of their diet! A proper balanced diet would also include fresh leafy greens and a small amount of nutritious pellets. In the wild, these bunnies have to scavenge for food and water sources. They often eat foods that are too rich like carrots & apples offered by tourists, along with whatever food they can find discarded on the ground or growing on local and potted plants. The bunnies deserve to be rescued so they can be given consistent, healthy food, to improve their overall health, and so they'll never need to be hungry and scavenge for food ever again.
Photos by: Chelsea Lincoln, Graphic on left by: Karen A.
Another reason life for the Cannon Beach bunnies is not so awesome is the danger of being injured or killed and eaten by predators. Some common predators living in and around Cannon Beach include bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, osprey, black bears, and raccoons. Though no one likes to talk about it, the bunnies are definitely falling prey to these hungry animals. One resident told a story of how they found a deceased rabbit in pieces under their house. They assumed the bunny had been eaten by a raccoon. We may not see a lot of dead bunnies in town because they are often snatched up and flown or carried into the forest to be eaten, but make no mistake, where there is a food source, predator will come to eat. You might be tempted to shrug this reality off as the circle of life, but remember, these bunnies are not wild. They were placed out in the wild; in danger, by humans. They deserve to live safe and cozy in homes where they will never need to hide from predators; to be safe from tearing teeth, beaks, claws, and talons.
Eagle Photo by Ken Smith, Raccoon Photo by Carolyn Hoard, Graphic created by Karen A.
Another danger of living in the wild, is the risk of being hit by a car. Rabbits are fast, but not always fast enough. In the summer, traffic increases as tourists flock to visit Cannon Beach. Bunnies can be seen hopping all around the parking lot at the Tolovana Recreation site. We all know people don't always drive as slowly as they ought to. A rabbit's miscalculation of timing combined with a driver not paying attention or driving too fast could result in catastrophic injury or gruesome death. Rescuing the bunnies gets them off the streets and into the safety of homes where they will not ever have to risk the terrifying danger of cars.
All pictures by Chelsea Lincoln, Graphic created by Karen A.
Living outside exposes rabbits to all kinds of parasites. In the pictures you can see the ear of little Jinx when we took her in. There were fleas all over her ears. We pulled 24 off of her, then applied Revolution per veterinary prescription. Fleas drink blood, so a heavy infestation can cause anemia, particularly in younger animals. Fleas also leave very itchy bites all over. Another concerning ectoparasite is ticks. The picture below is of a wild rabbit with ticks, but when Minx was rescued from Cannon Beach, she had 2 ticks on her. Ticks are more than just creepy blood-suckers. They are infamous for passing on diseases like tularemia. Sometimes when rabbits have a wound & are living outside, flies will lay eggs in the wound which hatch into maggots. We call this "fly strike" & a rabbit who is afflicted will have their tissue literally eaten away by burrowing maggots while they are still alive. In addition to ectoparasites, the bunnies of CB are frequently infected with endoparasites like worms or protozoa. In rabbits we have rescued & had tested, we have seen Strongyle & Eimeria infections. A good example of the danger of internal parasites is Mouse & Bear, who appeared to be healthy when we rescued them, but were silently dealing with a parasitic infection that caused hepatic coccidiosis which is suspected to have been the cause of their deaths. Rescuing the bunnies, we are able to test for & sometimes treat them for parasites. Living inside will protect them from these parasites, ensuring a more comfortable and healthy life.
Pic of tan rabbit by Chelsea Lincoln, edited to add parasites by Aaron B.
Strongyles pic by 1scotland16ecologists.wordpress.com/
Eimeria pic by Prof. Richard Hoop
Flea pic by coopder1
Fleas on Jinx pic by Karen A.
Tick pic by Arrow Exterminators
Ticks on wild bunny pic by Alina Kurbiel
Text art graphic created by Karen A.
Living outside, the bunnies of Cannon Beach are exposed to all kinds of inclement weather. They live in burrows they have dug into the ground and also find shelter in bushes and under decks, but they have to come out to find food and water. The bunnies in the pictures were pretty unfazed by the rain, but a wet coat will get cold eventually and take a long time to dry out. We were once sent a video of a rabbit who got caught out in very windy rainstorm and was so terrified they didn't now which way to run. Bunnies living outside are also exposed to hot summer temperatures. They are prone to heatstroke so not living inside with AC can be a major concern in the hotter days of summer. Wind and thunderstorms can be scary and dangerous. Snow in the winter causes their stomping grounds to be wet and frozen, limiting food and increasing risk of hypothermia. In addition to all of this, seasonal King Tides can cause ocean flooding farther into shore than normal. This can result in flooding of burrows, many of which are located near the beach. These waves may cause bunnies to be drowned in their burrows or swept out to sea. Rescuing them means they get to live in safe, dry, temperature controlled environments.
All pics by Karen A.
Anyone who has cared for a pet knows that at some point, they will get sick or injured. Common illnesses in bunnies include upper respiratory infections, E. cuniculi, head tilt, and GI stasis. Stasis is an emergency that can be fatal without proper care. The bunnies of Cannon Beach surely experience the same common illnesses, plus more since they are exposed to disease-causing parasites as well. They may also suffer injuries from getting clipped by a car, a laceration from running under a sharp fence, broken bones, or from being attacked by dogs. Living in the wild, they do not receive veterinary care. If they are injured, they may become easier prey for predators. If they have a serious laceration they may bleed out, or it may become infected, or it may become filled with maggots. If they fall ill, there is no one to take them to the vet, so they will crawl into their burrow to die slowly in discomfort. This is an issue people often don't think about, or wish not to. The reality is, without healthcare when needed, these rabbits will suffer and die, often from treatable illnesses. It is so important that we rescue them so they can get the medical care they need; to prevent so much suffering.
Pic of bunny by tree by Kristian Foden-Vencil / OPB
Pic of bunnies with ears missing by Karen A.
According to Oregon.gov "Oregon has the potential for a 9.0+ magnitude earthquake caused by the Cascadia Subduction Zone and a resulting tsunami of up to 100 feet in height that will impact the coastal area." We don't know when the earthquake will happen, but it could be any day. Shortly after the earthquake, a tsunami will follow. If there is still a feral population of bunnies in Cannon Beach at the time of the tsunami, they will likely all either drown or be swept across town and out to sea. This would be a terrifying way to die. We keep tsunami zones in mind when considering locations to build a sanctuary because we want the bunnies to be kept in a space that will be safe from the waves should this happen in our lifetime. We can't control all natural disaster risks, but this is one we can prepare for. If we do nothing and the earthquake happens, the bunnies in Cannon Beach will suffer.
Bunny photo by Chelsea Lincoln
Sign photo by Unknown for the Cannon Beach Gazette
Living in the wild, the bunnies of Cannon Beach may have each other, but they will never get to know the joy and comfort of living inside a home with a gentle hand petting them. Adopted bunnies are surrounded by love. They are welcomed into a family. Rabbit guardians offer tasty and nutritious food, treats, toys, snuggles, and pets. They also keep an eye on them and are able to catch signs of illness early and take them to the vet for care. They all deserve to be loved. <3
RHDV stands for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus. It is extremely contagious and deadly. Think it's cute to see all the bunnies hopping around Cannon Beach? If RHDV2 reaches them, it will be devastating. According to an article on VIN, "Affected rabbits may develop a fever and die within 36 hours. Infected rabbits may appear dull and be reluctant to eat; have congested membranes around the eyes; show signs of nervousness, incoordination or excitement; and/or make paddling movements. They may have trouble breathing. Upon death, they may have a blood-stained, frothy nasal discharge." This is why vaccinating all pet rabbits is important, and another important reason why these rabbits need to be rescued and taken in to a safe home. All rabbits we rescue are placed in a quarantine space for a set period of time, then are vaccinated as soon as possible. RHDV2 cases have been documented in various parts of Oregon. There haven't been any cases near Cannon Beach, but it could reach them any time. It is our goal to bring as many as possible to safety before the virus reaches them.
Photo: Noah's Arkive photo/C.L. Davis and S.W. Thompson DVM Foundation
You may not think this is an issue now, but it very well could be in the future. In many cases where rabbits are left to reproduce and cause property destruction, cities come to the conclusion that they need to be eliminated. Exterminators are called in. They may poison the bunnies, or capture and kill them. In one case, a person was called in with birds of prey to hunt the bunnies in a neighborhood. Thankfully so far the city of Cannon Beach has not resorted to such violence, but that doesn't mean they won't consider it in the future. If you haven't already, please sign our petition encouraging the city to not exterminate, but rather reach out to us for humane solutions to the overpopulation (link below). Our goal is to stop the population growth of the bunnies and rescue them before it gets to the point where people decide to kill them.
Bunny Crossbones Art: AliExpress.com sticker (unknown artist)
The environmental impact of the feral population of bunnies in Cannon Beach has yet to have been studied. What we do know is an increase in prey often causes an increase in local predators. Since rabbits are territorial animals, it is unlikely they are sharing any land with wild rabbits. We don't know what the environmental impact of displacing wild rabbits with domestic ones is. It is possible that the domestic rabbits could eat up all the food that the local wild rabbits would have eaten, causing a decrease in their population, or at least a migration farther inland.
Ecosystems depend on the presence of certain species and the foods they eat, so it's no telling how far-reach the impact of the abandoned domestic bunnies will have on the ecosystems of Cannon Beach. If you have been to "Bunny Hill" you may have spotted the many burrows bunnies have dug into the sandy dirt near the bushes. According to an article about rabbit overpopulation in Australia, building warrens causes "land degradation and erosion." The bottom line is the bunnies are an invasive species. We just don't know the extent of the impact they are having on the the local ecosystems. Rescuing the bunnies would allow the natural balance of wildlife and flora in CB to return.
Photo by @laurennrrice
Article quoted: https://pestsmart.org.au/toolkit-resource/economic-and-environmental-impacts-of-rabbits-in-australia/#:~:text=Rabbits%20can%20cause%20damage%20by,lowering%20the%20land's%20carrying%20capacity
Another interesting article: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10344-021-01505-2
There are many reasons why life for the domesticated bunnies living wild in Cannon Beach is not so great. Death by predator, starvation, dog attack, and illness due to disease and parasites happen to these rabbits all the time. Because of all this, one of the most important reasons to rescue them is to prevent the suffering of future generations. If we do nothing, the bunnies will continue to reproduce, and their babies will continue to die. Maybe just enough will survive to continue breeding, but unknown numbers of bunnies in Cannon Beach will continue to fall ill with no one to care for them. Instead of receiving vet care, they will crawl into a burrow and slowly suffer in silence, perhaps until they die. This is why we do what we do. When we see a cute bunny out there that appears to be healthy, we know that they might not be healthy on the inside. Even if they are, we know that at some point in their life, they will become sick or injured and probably no one will notice or help them. The bunnies of Cannon Beach deserve better. We all need to pitch in and do what we can to prevent future generations of bunnies from being born into this life of inevitable suffering.
Photos by Chelsea Lincoln