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High court won't hear Alta rabbit case

High court won't hear Alta rabbit caseA few of Canmore's feral rabbits are pictured Nov. 22, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Graveland

CANMORE, Alta. - The Supreme Court of Canada won't hear an appeal from a nature lover who tried to save feral rabbits in an Alberta mountain community from being trapped and killed.

The town of Canmore decided several years ago to cull the rabbits, which it said were devouring gardens and attracting predators such as coyotes and cougars.

Daniel Onischuk, an Edmonton photographer, objected and went to court for an injunction. He argued that trapping, sterilizing and relocating the rabbits would be a better option.

Court of Queen's Bench dismissed his request. The judge ruled Onishchuk had no standing to make the application since he had no ties to Canmore. The Alberta Appeal Court declined to hear the case.

Onischuk couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.

The Supreme Court, as usual, gave no reasons for refusing to hear his appeal.

The town began rounding up its rabbits in the fall of 2012 and the cull continues.

"At the end of trapping last spring, 506 rabbits had been removed, some to a sanctuary. I cannot say how many have been removed since trapping began in the late 2013, current winter season as we don't have a tally yet," Sally Caudill, a Canmore official said in an email.

Canmore, about 110 kilometres west of Calgary on the edge of Banff National Park, made international headlines and faced the wrath of animal lovers for its plan to destroy about 2,000 rabbits.

The bunnies were originally pets, but were released in the 1990s. The population grew to the point where there was one rabbit for every six people in the town of 12,000.

"The council has approved $60,000 annually for the program," said Caudill. "That amount was approved in 2014."

Trapping only occurs in cold winter months when food is scarce."

—By Bill Graveland in Calgary

Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter.

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