Yes, you can turn feral baby bunnies into pets, but officials advise against it

The city asked residents earlier this week to resist feeding feral baby bunnies. But what about adopting them as pets?

Christina Bowhay says her happy and healthy pet bunny, named Zero, was once a feral baby animal living alone outside under a restaurant patio.  

Bowhay figured the bunny would be eaten by a neighbourhood cat if she didn't intervene. So she did.

She caught the bunny, using a squirrel trap, and then had him vaccinated and neutered.

Bowhay said she called animal control companies but they would not come capture it.

That was nearly three years ago.

"It felt like the right thing to do, he was only the size of a big potato," Bowhay wrote to CBC in an email.

But she wondered if her unconventional path to pet ownership is legal. 

"Would I have received a ticket for doing this under the bylaw?" she asked.

'The best thing for the animal'

The Calgary Eyeopener did some investigating on Bowhay's behalf. If you need a pet, should you grab a net?

Turns out there's a long list of wildlife in Alberta that you can live trap and keep, even though such behaviour is generally not encouraged. The list includes pigeons, magpies, crows, Prairie shrews, wood frogs and Richardson's ground squirrels.  

The City of Calgary does not allow people to trap wild animals in public areas, such as parks.

As for catching a domestic rabbit — like Bowhay's bunny Zero  — on private property, it appears Bowhay did nothing illegal.

"I don't think there's any specific laws to protect rabbits, feral rabbits, but then again I would think about whether that's really the best thing for the animal," said Chris Manderson, the urban conservation lead for Calgary Parks.

"And I'm not certain that capturing … an animal that's become wild is necessarily the best for it, and there is a risk of transmitting diseases, there's also a risk of having more baby bunnies if you're not careful too."

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With files from the Calgary Eyeopener