Supports National Park Service’s plan to control the rabbits at American Camp
September 3, 2010 · 8:43 AM
At the risk of horrifying my neighbors, I feel that as a scientist I have to stand up for the Park Service’s plan to control the rabbits at American Camp.
I think everyone would agree that National Parks are treasures that we value highly in this country, whether they be purely natural and scenic (like the Grand Canyon) or largely historic (like Gettysburg). Our local national parks are some of both.
The Park’s mission, in law, is to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects ...” Unfortunately, the bunnies don’t qualify as either. They are an invasive species to which our local ecosystem is NOT adapted; they are destroying both the natural elements of the park (the prairie) and the historical elements (the redoubt).
If you have walked in the areas in American Camp with rabbits, you will see that they either look like a moonscape or, at better moments, like a partly vegetated area — but that vegetation is a mass of weedy species that any local gardener would try to remove from their land.
Compare that with the native prairie, perhaps best seen on Yellow Island, which is a diverse and gorgeous assemblage of flowers and fescues. The rabbits are a pest, like tansy ragwort or cheatgrass or housemice or rats — but, of course, cuter. Cuteness cannot be the basis for scientific decisions regarding management of a public resource.
Some have argued that the local bald eagles will suffer if this food source is removed, but if you look at the data (which the Park, in due diligence, has gathered), rabbits provide only a minute fraction of the diet. So this is an empty argument.
The Park Service needs to find a cost-effective and humane way to carry out this task — no one wants to torture bunnies or have them die a slow death (although if you have ever heard a rabbit screaming when being carried off by an owl, you might argue that being shot is a much more humane death).
If the public wants to contribute time and money to change the way this task is done, I am sure the Park would welcome that, but they do not have the resources to undertake time-consuming and expensive ventures. They have a tough job to do, trying to carry out their mission — let’s find a way to help them.