CANMORE, Alta. - A website is urging tourists to boycott a scenic Rocky Mountain community near Banff National Park if it doesn't back off plans to destroy its feral rabbits.
The site called Canmore Resident Plan doesn't list a spokesperson, but heavily criticizes the town's mayor and council. It calls on musicians, dancers, sports teams and businesses planning events in Canmore to go elsewhere starting Dec. 1.
"You have to take some of it seriously because obviously you will lose some people. There's no doubt about it," Mayor Ron Casey said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
"But at the same time you can't let a percentage drop in tourism influence you from doing the right thing."
Canmore is expected to begin trapping some of its burgeoning bunny population next week. The issue has been the source of heated debate for years.
The rabbits were originally pets but were released in the 1990s and started doing what bunnies do best. Now, according to town officials, the population has hit the 2,000 mark — one rabbit for every six people in the town of 12,000 — and something has to be done.
Canmore has hired a contractor to trap the long-eared hoppers and have them gassed if a deal isn't worked out with a local animal welfare group to sterilize and relocate them.
Casey said the rabbits are too plentiful and could attract cougars and coyotes looking for an easy snack.
The mayor has plenty of angry emails from Canmore and around the world.
"Most people don't understand our situation. They don't understand our ecosystem. They don't understand where Canmore is. They just know it's a dot on the map somewhere," he said.
"This isn't a popularity contest. This is about doing the right thing as a politician."
The group Save Canmore Bunnies said it has nothing to do with the website.
"I do think it's sad," said group member Kyndra Biggy. "There's such a positive side that needs to be worked on rather than going the negative route."
Biggy, who works at an animal rescue shelter, was having limited success during an interview getting bunnies of all shapes, sizes and colours to come out from underneath an outdoor stage.
"I love their little noses and the way they hop," she said. "They're so cuddly."
Save Canmore Bunnies has raised less than $10,000 so far. The plan is to sterilize the animals and take them to a sanctuary where they can live out their lives.
The cost is $130 per bunny, said Susan Vickery, founder of Earth Animal Rescue Society, which has been working with Save Canmore Bunnies. That includes spaying or neutering, moving them to the sanctuary and providing food for the next year.
Vickery was heavily involved earlier this year when the University of Victoria in British Columbia dealt with hundreds of its own feral rabbits.
She's a bit frustrated at the lack of cash coming in for the Canmore cause.
"It makes me angry that people can drop $50 in a liquor store without blinking, but they won't support something like this," she said.
That might change, she said, but not before some of the bunnies are destroyed.
"Donations haven't started coming in because they haven't started killing the rabbits yet," she said. "When they start killing, donations will start dropping in the bucket. It is a reality and it's a sad one really."