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Rabbits' supporters gather Sunday, 3 p.m., for 'Bunny Tea' at South Beach
Supporters of the American Camp prairie rabbits will gather Sunday at 3 p.m. at South Beach for a Bunny Tea (tea and carrot cake will be served) and to spend some time in what Bryn Barnard calls the "gentle Art of Watching Rabbits."
Barnard is referring to a chapter in a National Park Service brochure published in the mid-1970s about the life of rabbits on the prairie.
"Check out the S.O.B. Facebook Page to see the growing number of signatures to Save the Bunnies," Barnard wrote Friday in an e-mail. "At last count, 20 countries and 177 signatures."
The National Park Service proposes removing the rabbits from the prairie, saying their burrowing destroys habitat for sensitive animal, insect and plant species that depend on the prairie ecosystem. Park officials say the rabbits are disturbing cultural artifacts as well.
The rabbits are proposed to be removed from the prairie, but would continue to exist elsewhere on the island, such as at neighboring Eagle Cove.
Supporters of the rabbits say the rabbits' removal would disturb the ecosystem that is in place now, and would remove a food source for eagles and foxes. They also blanch at the proposed method of removal: Shooting.
Sandi Ackerman of Rabbit Meadows Feral Rabbit Sanctuary in Seattle said the American Camp rabbits could be trapped, neutered and released back into the wild; or trapped, neutered and relocated to the sanctuary. She said a neutered rabbit population would die off naturally within a couple of years. "It's a humane option," she said.
Prairies are increasingly rare in Western Washington. All told, the American Camp prairie is about 600 acres, almost the same size as Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve in Littlerock. Mima Mounds is managed by the state Department of Natural Resources.
Hannah Anderson, who coordinates the recovery of rare species for the Nature Conservancy, said "not more than 3 percent of the historic extent" of Washington's prairies exist today, gone to make way for agriculture and development.
Anderson said prairies are important because they are home to rare and declining species, including animals, insects and plants that only live on prairies. Prairie grasses help sustain some of the world's oxygen. "There's a huge biomass in grasses," she said
"Each prairie is its own special system. When we have so little left, we have to conserve what remains."
The next step: You can submit comments to the National Park by Aug. 12 on the National Park's Planning, Environment and Public Comment website or by mail to Superintendent, San Juan Island NHP, P.O. Box 429, Friday Harbor, WA 98250.
To view and download the environmental assessment, visit the Planning, Environment and Public Comment website.