Fugitive Bunnies

It's Easter Sunday, so that means we are in the middle of a long, 4-day weekend here in Australia. In the U.S., I never had off Good Friday or Easter Monday, so I am enjoying this new way of celebrating the holiday. It feels a bit like the four days off during an American Thanksgiving, except that we spent the afternoon at a great outdoor pool with our friends yesterday. It also differs from its American counterpart because Australians have compulsions to eat hot cross buns and give chocolate eggs to one another. Maybe the latter happens because the Easter Bunny could be shot if he isn't too careful when hopping around this country.

You see, as the 'Rabbits in Australia' wikipedia entry points out, "In Australia, rabbits are the most serious mammalian pests, an invasive species whose destruction of habitats is responsible for the extinction or major decline of many native animals such as the Western Quoll," a cute cat-looking creature with white spots and brown fur. Although rabbits came to Australia with the First Fleet in 1788, their population didn't seem to really take off until Thomas Austin released 24 rabbits into the countryside in 1859 in one of those "be fruitful and multiply" moments. There were later attempts to control the expansion of rabbits with an 1800-km long 'rabbit-proof' fence in Western Australia in 1907 and a rabbit-killing virus that was introduced in the '50s, which eventually lost its effect and the rabbits came back again. Government researchers, however, are still working on variants of this myxoma virus to prevent conception in rabbits.

These days, whenever a rabbit does appear, there is an almost immediate reaction to get rid of the little creatures. I heard recently about some children in a classroom at a Brisbane school who were forced ten years ago to give up their illegally-held rabbit for slaughter. Although it is legal to keep pet rabbits in some States, it is illegal to do so in Queensland, according to this posting, where one can be fined $30,000 for harboring a bunny. Audra, an American ex-pat blogging in Sydney, posted a picture of a flyer announcing the mass poisoning of rabbits in her neighborhood last year. Poisoning seems to be the preferred way of getting rid of bunnies, as traps have been banned due to concerns about animal cruelty. Out in rural Australia, shooting rabbits is highly popular. Here's a posting from AusHunt, "The Australian Hunting and Shooting Directory," where there's a picture of 17 dead bunnies all lined up with the following caption underneath:
Rabbit shooting for an hour!

It was a still night and not a breath of wind so I decided to head out and bag a few rabbits off my Uncle’s property.

I grabbed my SAKO Varmint .22LR with it’s 4.5-14 x 40 variable scope attached, a packet of Winchester Powerpoints, my small battery pack and packed in my Lightforce spotlight which can be mounted directly onto the scope. An hour or so of walking around and the results speak for themselves.
As a wanted, shoot-to-kill criminal, I do wonder how the Easter Bunny is able to make his deliveries Down Under.