Bunny Zero: Chasing the origins of the Bridgeland rabbit invasion

Bunny Zero: Chasing the origins of the Bridgeland rabbit invasion

Residents of Calgary's Bridgeland neighbourhood have a hard time remembering life before herds of feral bunnies roamed the streets.

The rabbits can also be spotted in Mission, Ramsay and Erlton, but legend has it Bridgeland was the home of "bunny zero" — the one responsible for Calgary's current bunny tsunami.

Several stories have been told over the years about where the bunnies came from and when they started breeding in Calgary communities. The Calgary Eyeopener spoke to people at two local Bridgeland restaurants about what they know about the starts of the invasion.

Burger 320 chef Mario Spina says the origins of the Bridgeland bunnies is like a folk story that goes from generation to generation.

"I heard the story from another old Italian guy, who heard it from another Italian guy, and evidentially, another Italian guy told him," he said.

Backyard bunnies

According to the story Spina was told, there was a local Italian man who had a love for rabbits and raised them in his backyard — not far from where Spina's restaurant is today.

"I don't know how, maybe he says, 'hey bunny, be free,' or they got out and became free. But since that happened, there's always been stories," he said.

La Brezza restaurant's Filomena Abdi says she too heard stories of a neighbourhood man who raised backyard rabbits, but the one she believes is responsible is a more recent character in the Bridgeland area.

She says her husband was friendly with a man they referred to as Junkyard Joe, who apparently bred rabbits at his home. The two would see him around the area from time to time.

"Then three or four summers ago, we stopped seeing him, but then we noticed that there was rabbits all over Bridgeland and they were everywhere," she said, referring to an increase in the bunny population.

"We're thinking maybe something happened to him and maybe someone let the rabbits out."

'I know the person's real'

Abdi says Bridgeland was once known as Calgary's Little Italy and she heard the older Italian residents with backyard gardens were upset with the local rabbit breeder because the escaped rabbits would chew up their gardens.

Spina says he's sure the rabbit breeder was Italian because it's more common in Italy to raise rabbits than chickens for food. 

"All I can say is that's a cultural thing, and if perhaps you're in Italy, that's OK. But here in Canada, my bunny is my friend and I'll always feed him the carrot," he said.

Have you heard a story about the origins of Calgary's feral bunnies? Leave it in the comments below.

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With files from the Calgary Eyeopener and Andrew Ng