Bunanza Rabbit Rescue

Elizabeth Olson cares for rabbits at Bunanza Rabbit Rescue in Lynden. According to Olson, many people who buy rabbits for Easter end up discarding them within a year. (Leora Watson/Lynden Tribune) 

WHATCOM — Easter may have come and gone. But not for Lynden’s Bunanza Rabbit Rescue Ranch and Adoption Center.

According to Elizabeth Olson, founder of Bunanza Rabbit Rescue, the rescue’s unpleasantly busy season is right after Easter.

“Unfortunately anywhere from a few days after Easter up through about July or August, we'll get deluged,” said Olson of the center, which is the only one of its kind in Whatcom County.

In fact, Bunanza Rabbit Rescue Ranch and Adoption Center is the “only rabbit rescue north of Pierce County,” Olson said.

“Officially, we serve King, Snohomish, Skagit, Whatcom, Island and San Juan Counties, though we have people who come from all over Washington state to both adopt and surrender rabbits,” Olson explained. “It's not unusual to even have people come here from British Columbia or Oregon.

 

Bunanza Rabbit Rescue 

Olson started Bunanza Rabbit Rescue seven years ago after someone abandoned an Easter rabbit on her property.

“I fell in love with this rabbit and learned everything there was to know,” said Olson.

Olson reached out to other people with rabbits in Whatcom County and joined rabbit Facebook groups to learn more about caring for them.

It wasn't too long after that that Olson rescued another domestic rabbit running down the middle of Badger road, and the rescue began.

According to Pet Keen, a website that specializes in articles on how to care for animals, around 80% of rabbits bought for Easter will die or be abandoned within the first year of ownership.

“Believe it or not, in this day and age, it still happens that people get cute little easter bunnies and then abandon them anywhere from a few days to a few months after Easter,” said Olson. “If they're lucky, they're found and brought to a rescue or a shelter, if they are not lucky, they'll die of starvation, disease or be eaten.”

 

Overpopulation

Another problem that can arise from people abandoning rabbits is the potential for overpopulation.

A large colony of rabbits reside on Whidbey Island resulted from people dumping rabbits there for more than 20 years, according to Olson.

Olson and others tackled a similar issue in Hovander Park in Ferndale a few years ago with a rabbit colony that had begun developing there.

 “We managed to catch them all and got them spayed or neutered and got them homes and there is no more colony there,” said Olson.

Bunanza Rabbit Rescue does year round education primarily through social media to spread the word of the importance of not purchasing an ‘Easter bunny’ rabbit and to never abandon your rabbit.

 

No-kill shelter

Sparkle, a rabbit that the rescue currently has up for adoption, was an easter bunny last year that was dumped by his owners.

“They didn't want him anymore a couple months after Easter and he was dumped in a park,” said Olson. “And he was fortunate enough that somebody found him and brought him here.”

Bunanza Rabbit Rescue Ranch became an official nonprofit organization two years ago and has since then adopted out over 400 rabbits, averaging one adoption every other day, according to Olson.

“We're a no kill [shelter],” said Olson. “So rabbits can be with us forever if needed. The longest we've ever had a rabbit was just over a year. I had a pair of brothers who were so traumatized by their previous life that it took them that long to calm down enough to be adoptable.”

On average, rabbits are with the shelter for two months until they find a permanent home, according to Olson.

 

Helping ‘as many rabbits as possible’

Laura Harr discovered Bunanza Rabbit Rescue Ranch through Facebook and currently has six rabbits she adopted from the organization. 

According to Harr, her first rabbit that she adopted from the rescue was an abandoned Easter bunny rabbit. 

“My first was a presumed Easter dropped off because of the time frame that it was found and it was super skittish when we got it but ended up taming fine,” said Harr. “I believe Bunanza prepares for the onslaught of bunnies by setting up extra cages before Easter, knowing that they'll have an intake.” 

Harr and her family are very involved with the rabbit rescue with Harr’s eighth grade daughter, Carly Harr, doing volunteer work with the organization to fulfill her community service hours for her school and Harr also volunteering. 

Helping as many rabbits as possible is the rescue's main mission. 

“We want to help as many bunnies as possible, find a happy forever home,” said Olson.