From Iceland — "We Need To Learn To Live With Rabbits"

“We Need To Learn To Live With Rabbits”

Published March 14, 2022

Photo by
Ragna Ó. Guðmundsdóttir/Art Bicnick

Rabbits, who are not native to Iceland but have by all accounts made this country their home, are here to stay, and at least one Icelander believes it is time we made our peace with this fact.

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The present stock of rabbits in this country can be traced back to 2010, from a few pet rabbits that were released into the wild near the Elliðaárdal area of Reykjavík. From that point, they experienced a population boom of sorts. 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.

Rabbits have been found in other parts of Iceland as well, and in 2014, efforts began to wipe out rabbits from the Kjarnaskógur forest in North Iceland, without success. Ingólfur Jóhannsson, the managing director of the Eyjafjörður Forestry Association, believes the time has come for Icelanders to accept their lagomorph neighbours.

“It’s meaningless [to stop them],” he told RÚV. “These rabbits are here to stay and we’ll never get rid of them. We need to learn to just live with them.”

Indeed, despite the fact that some 3,000 rabbits have been shot in the region since they were first spotted, these hunts have barely put a dent in the population, which has grown so large that there are no official estimates as to how many there may be.

Rabbits in Iceland, as anywhere else in the world, have done some damage to newly planted trees in a country actively trying to reforest. Ways of scaring the rabbits off that do not harm them only work in a limited capacity, and outright killing them is useless against their numbers.

Ingólfur has mixed feelings about the rabbits, in his resignation with the situation saying, “It’s love and hate, I think it best to say.”

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