By: Diana Szpotowicz,

The University of Victoria has declared its campus to be a rabbit-free zone. In the past, hundreds of rabbits could be found across its school grounds. March 1, 2011 (CTV)

The University of Victoria is putting eight outlaw bunnies on notice ““ their free ride is over, and as of this week, the campus is officially a rabbit-free zone.

For years, taking a walk on school grounds usually meant an encounter with some of the hundreds of wild rabbits who called the campus home. James Coccola, the chairman of the University of Victoria Students’ Society, said that two years ago, he could stand on one spot on campus and count up to two hundred rabbits.

“But I haven’t seen any rabbits in the past week,” he said.

Tom Smith, the executive director of facilities management at UVic, says that Monday was the deadline to relocate the rabbits and 870 had already been removed.

“Only eight are left,” he said. “We know where they are, what they look like and we intend to capture them and put them in sanctuaries.”

Some of the rabbits have been taken to permit-holding sanctuaries as far away as Texas, but the majority are now in the Coombs Rabbit Sanctuary under the care of Susan Vickery.

According to the university, the rabbit-free policy is intended to stop community members from abandoning their pets on campus. Smith says that if any owners want to get rid of their pet rabbit, they should speak with the SPCA instead. Any new rabbits seen on campus will be put down humanely, but Smith would not go into further detail on the procedure.

The university says that another reason to remove the rabbits is to put an end to the damage they create on campus.

Smiths says they not only dig up fields and lawns, but they also kill mature trees, cause car accidents and leave enormous amounts of feces that sometimes need to be cleaned up with a leaf blower.

Coccola says the issue has been a quiet one among the members of the student’s society and that while he knew of Monday’s deadline, he wasn’t officially informed on the issue.

Dave Shiskoff, the Canadian correspondent for Friends of Animals, recently participated in an organized demonstration on campus to try to encourage the school to reconsider the no-rabbits campus policy. In February, about 50 students marched around the school’s main road, chanting slogans and holding up signs in protest.

“We figured that there hadn’t been a demonstration at UVic and it was about time to speak up to the facility managers and to the UVic president,” said Shiskoff.

But he says that in the end, the policy may not work.

“If you kill off animals in an area, they just tend to come back. The cycle just continues,” he says.

Shiskoff also says the no-rabbits policy will have a disastrous affect on how the campus is viewed.

“I’m sure that people who have been reading about this from afar will be less inclined to come to the school. There is a murder ground on campus,” he said.