Opinion: What price will we pay for rabbits in Leisure World?

Phil Friedman

Why do I feel that something needs to be done to eliminate the rabbit infestation in Leisure World?

Because rabbits are primary carriers of tick fever, tularemia, powassan virus and rabies

Tularemia is an infectious disease in rabbits that is caused by bacteria. Humans contract tularemia when broken skin comes into contact with an infected rabbit carcass. Also, if a rabbit has been depositing fecal matter into your soil, you may contract tularemia while gardening or spending time in your yard. People with tularemia will develop an ulcer at the site of infection, and lymph glands can become inflamed and swollen. Then, a fever can develop which may last longer than one month.

Tick fever is a virus that results in a fever, chills, headache, eye pain, muscle pain, nausea and vomiting. Tick fever can be a severe illness, especially in children and the elderly.

Powassan virus can cause severe encephalitis in humans and has up to a 60 percent fatality rate.

Infected humans may experience sleepiness, disorientation and become semicomatose.

Rabies, a virus, progressively paralyzes and can kill any mammal, including humans. Rabies is generally contracted through contact with an infected rabbit through biting.

Though humans should avoid contact with any rabbits, if a rabbit seems especially fearless around humans, it could be infected. Call United Wildlife rabbit control immediately for professional rabbit removal.

In the general population, this is an issue that would rank as less than urgent.

However, in a community of senior citizens, with the likelihood in almost all of us that our immune systems are not as robust as when we were younger, the issue becomes far more critical.

What can we do about it?

First, I have found that cottontail rabbits are, surprisingly, not members of the rodent family. Rabbits, are in the family of lagomorphs, and are considered by the state of California to be a game mammal.

However, they are considered to be in the category of an agricultural pest, and may be taken by any lawful means by any property owner, resident or his employee.

No license is necessary if the taking is not done for profit …

Shooting, poisoning and trapping are the main methods considered for taking these animals.

According to the Golden Rain Foundation staff member to whom I was referred,  regarding this issue, we (Leisure World Seal Beach) are prevented from any proactive solution for the following reasons.

1) Shooting is not legal within the city of Seal Beach.

However, a review of the appropriate municipal code section indicated that this is hardly the case. The municipal code section reads as follows:

No person shall discharge a gun, compressed air gun, pistol or other firearm without first obtaining a permit from the chief of police. This prohibition does not apply to law enforcement personnel acting in the course of duty.

I would think that it would be possible to either obtain such a permit, or hire someone who has such a permit.

2)    Trapping is difficult:

With so much food available, the rabbits are hard to bait. However there are traps designed for this purpose, and they are readily available. It would require that the traps be monitored on a daily basis to remove and dispose of the dead animals. Difficult, but doable and only until the rabbits are gone. As for some sort of humane, catch and release program, since the State classes the rabbits as agricultural pests, it is illegal to release them without a specific permit, which is difficult to justify or obtain.

3)    I am unable to find any legal obstacle to poisoning rabbits.

Of course, poisoning is somewhat dangerous, in that poison is an indiscriminate killer, so it would be possible that some animals other than rabbits might be killed.  This could include squirrels, gophers, possums, skunks, or possibly even some birds. Further, there is the possibility that a pet cat running loose, or a coyote, or a hawk might eat a poisoned rabbit, and die from that.

The final point made by the GRF staff person is that this is a “Mutual issue,” and would have to be handled by each Mutual on its own.

This could not work, because rabbits are not confined to stay within the bounds of any Mutual. If one Mutual expended the effort to eliminate the problem, and a neighboring Mutual determined not to, in a very short time the first Mutual would be just as overrun as before.

It would have to be a community-wide effort.

I do not claim to have found a specific solution, but I feel that the persons who are in the positions to do so, must do so.

Phil Friedman is a resident of Seal Beach Leisure World.