Rabbit populations are reaching a level that calls for their complete extermination or very strict population controls, municipal officials contend.
In a joint statement from the environmental departments of all six capital and capital area municipalities, they point out that rabbits, a non-native species introduced to the wild as pets, have already caused considerable damage to parts of the country. They point out as well that The Icelandic Institute of Natural History has called for rabbits “to be completely exterminated or at least have a very strict control over their population.”
The officials call for immediate action, saying, “If reduction measures of some kind are not taken, there is a great danger that damage done by increasing numbers of rabbits will be great and widespread. This will follow with it a great cost to municipalities.”
Whilst they recommend that great numbers of rabbits be “removed” from extensive areas, they point out that by Icelandic law, rabbits are protected – it is illegal to hunt them. A special permit to cull the rabbits would have to be granted by the Ministry for the Environment.
The officials add that the public needs to be educated on the dangers of releasing pets into the wild. Iceland’s current rabbit population descends, for the most part, from pet rabbits which were released in the Elliðaárdal area of Reykjavík in 2010.
In 2011, rabbits bounded onto a Reykjavík highway, causing a three-car pile up. By 2012, rabbits were plaguing farms in south Iceland, as they burrowed into hay bales intended for animal feed, leaving waste inside them. Last fall, Reykjavík made the decision to look into what options were available to deal with the rabbit issue.