03/12/2012 02:01 EDT | Updated 02/08/2013 05:12 EST

Canmore Rabbits: Feral Animal Rescue Threatened By Lack Of Public Support, Cash

CALGARY - An animal rescue group says a lack of cash and public support are likely to lead to the deaths of feral rabbits being trapped in the Alberta mountain town of Canmore.

The picturesque community on the eastern edge of Banff National Park began trapping its burgeoning bunny population in late January and had been turning the rabbits over to the Earth Animal Rescue Society (EARS), which has sterilized the animals and found sanctuaries for them.

"If I receive 40 more this week, that's it. There's no more money coming in," said Susan Vickery in an interview with The Canadian Press from her home in Coombs, B.C.

"They're going to start killing them."

Vickery said it costs $130 for each rabbit that her group receives. She said there are plenty of offers of land and some veterinarians and Calgary's animal bylaw services have been helping with sterilization.

"The only obstacle is the cash," she said.

"The money comes in dribbles and drabs. It's not the $5,000 a week that I'm going to need to keep up with the trapping at 50 rabbits a week. That's the reality and it sucks doesn't it?"

Canmore says it has as many as 2,000 rabbits that it needs to remove — one for every six people in the town of 12,000 — and hired someone in January to catch them. Vickery and her group believe the number is actually closer to about 800.

The town has faced the wrath of animal lovers for its plan to destroy the rabbits, which were originally pets but were released in the 1990s.

Canmore has said they are too plentiful and could attract cougars and coyotes looking for an easy snack.

Vickery said she is demoralized by the fact that the campaign has only raised about $28,000 in cash.

"We're going to lose some rabbits — and we're going to keep losing rabbits — if people don't buck up and start putting up some money."

But she is pleased there have been small successes.

"I have saved those little lives."

Vickery said there have been limited donations from residents of Canmore and Calgary. She figures that considering the city's population is more than 1 million, residents should have done more.

More than 70 per cent of what has donated has come from the United States.

"I don't want to tell you how pathetic that is."

But Vickery is grateful for the animal lovers who are trying to help.

She noted a Grade 6 class at Pauline Johnson Jr. Public School in Toronto, held a bake sale and raised $211.20 — enough to adopt out two bunnies. The students also wrote letters to Canmore Mayor Ron Casey expressing their concern.

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