WILTON MANORS, Fla. (AP) — When Alicia Griggs steps out of her suburban Fort Lauderdale home, Florida’s latest invasive species hits the streets: lionhead rabbits.
The bunnies, which sport impressive flowing manes around their heads, want the food Griggs is carrying. But she also represents their best chance for survival and travel where this domesticated breed belongs: inside homes, away from cars, cats, hawks, the Florida heat, and perhaps exterminators hired by the government.
Griggs is spearheading efforts to raise the $20,000 to $40,000 it would cost a rescue group to capture, neuter, vaccinate, house and then donate the estimated 60-100 lion heads that now populate Jenada Isles, a community of 81 homes at Wilton Manors.
They are the descendants of a group that a backyard breeder illegally released when she moved house two years ago.
“They really need to be rescued. So we tried to convince the city to do it, but they’re just dragging their feet,” Griggs said. iguanas and everything that people don’t want.”
Monica Mitchell, whose East Coast Rabbit Rescue would likely lead the effort, said capturing, processing and finding homes for them “is not an easy process”. Few veterinarians treat rabbits, and many potential owners are hesitant when they find out how much work the animals require. Griggs agreed.
“People don’t realize they’re exotic animals and they’re complicated. They have a complicated digestive system and they have to follow a special diet,” said Griggs, a real estate agent. “You can’t just throw table scraps at them.”
Wilton Manors is giving Griggs and other supporters time to raise money and relocate the rabbits rather than exterminate them, even though the city commission voted in April to do just that after receiving an estimate of $8,000 of a trapping company.
The vote came after some residents complained the lionheads were digging holes, chewing up outdoor wiring and leaving droppings on sidewalks and driveways. City commissioners were also concerned that the rabbits could spread to nearby communities and towns and become a traffic hazard if they ventured onto main streets.
“The safety of this rabbit population is of the utmost importance to the city, and any decision to get us involved will be certain to see these rabbits placed in the hands of people who are passionate about providing the care and love these rabbits need.” , police said. Chief Gary Blocker said in a statement.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which often culls invasive animals, told the city it would not intervene. Rabbits do not pose an immediate threat to wildlife.
Lionhead rabbits aren’t the only invasive species causing headaches or worse for Floridians. burmese pythons And lionfish kill native species. giant african snails eat stucco in houses and carry human diseases. iguanas destroy the gardens. Like the lionhead rabbits at Wilton Manors, these populations all started when people released them illegally.
But unlike these species, Florida’s environment is not favorable for lionheads. Instead of the 7-9 years they live when properly housed, their lives outside are unpleasant, brutal, and cut short.
The lionheads’ thick coat makes them overheat during Florida summers, and their lack of fear makes them vulnerable to predators. Snacking on lawns is not healthy eating. Their illnesses are not treated. They need owners.
“Domestic (rabbits) released into the environment are not equipped to thrive on their own,” said Eric Stewart, executive director of the American Rabbit Breeders Association. He said the rancher who freed them should be prosecuted, a course the city has not followed.
The colony at Wilton Manors survives and thrives solely because lionheads reproduce like the rabbits they are, with females giving birth to litters of two to six cubs each month, from the age of around 3 months.
On a recent morning in the Jenada Islands, broods of two to 10 rabbits dotted the streets and lawns, the bravest jumping up at residents and visitors in search of treats.
A large group of rabbits gathered in the driveway of Gator Carter, who prepared food for them. He said the lion heads bring joy to the neighborhood and his two young grandchildren love giving them carrots.
“People drive by, stop, love them, feed them,” Carter said. “They don’t bother me. We have a few Airbnbs on the island here and people (guests) are just amazed that the bunnies come up to them.”
But Jon King said he wanted the bunnies gone soon. They dug into his yard and he spent $200 to fix his exterior lights after damaging the wiring. He bought rabbit repellent, but it didn’t work, and his little dog doesn’t scare them: “He’s their best friend.
“Every morning I wake up and the first thing I do is cover the holes and chase them out of the backyard. I love them, I just wish they were somewhere else,” King said. rescue would be awesome.”