Probably best not to tell the kiddos, but a rabbit round-up at Woodland Park is to begin in mid-January, and with it, the popular attraction...

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Probably best not to tell the kiddos, but a rabbit round-up at Woodland Park is to begin in mid-January, and with it, the popular attraction of watching and feeding the bunnies will go bye-bye.

The bunnies, however, are not — repeat, not — doomed. They’re just headed to a sanctuary in Redmond.

At a parks-board meeting Thursday night, a city official laid out a plan to trap, sterilize and relocate an estimated 300 to 500 rabbits that live in and around Woodland Park — a population that has migrated as far as the north end of Green Lake Park and infiltrated Woodland Park Zoo. The parks board is expected to approve the plan next month. Several animal-advocate groups, including Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and Seattle Animal Shelter, support the plan.

Though the bunnies live in the wild, they are domesticated. The park population likely began with family pets that were abandoned at the park. Many end up being attacked by other animals — or abused by people.

“They are pet rabbits, and they have a horrible, horrible life there, and it’s a short one,” said Mark Pilger, a Green Lake resident who has rescued two of the feral rabbits, including one that had been abused. Pilger said he has seen so many dead rabbits while jogging at the lake that he no longer runs there because it is too upsetting.

The parks department wants to remove the rabbits because they have damaged trees and dug holes and tunnels that can be hazardous for park users. Some rabbits carry parasites and diseases, and there also is anecdotal evidence that they have begun moving into surrounding neighborhoods, said Barb DeCaro, resource-conservation coordinator for the parks department.

At the same time, though, the rabbits have drawn quite an audience of humans, primarily at an outcropping of rocks in Woodland Park and a triangular-shaped meadow west of Green Lake.

Relocating the rabbits

The House Rabbit Society is accepting contributions to help pay to relocate rabbits in and around Woodland Park. Tax-deductible contributions may be made to the society and sent to P.O. Box 3242, Redmond, WA 98073.

At the start of the year, box traps would be placed in areas of the park where the rabbits gather, with carrots and apples used as lures. Captured rabbits would be kept for as long as three days at a Magnuson Park building before visiting the vet.

After sterilization, they would return to Magnuson briefly and then head to Rabbit Meadows Sanctuary in Redmond, an enclosed outdoor space operated by the nonprofit House Rabbit Society, which is overseeing the relocation plan.

Sandi Ackerman, who runs the sanctuary, estimated that it would take three to four months to complete the relocation. Since all it takes is one male and one female rabbit to make more rabbits, the city and the House Rabbit Society would continue to trap rabbits after the initial round-up, DeCaro said.

She said she hopes that by removing the rabbits from the park, people will be less inclined to abandon their pet bunnies there.

The cost for relocating each rabbit is estimated at $100, or $50,000 for 500. Parks and animal-welfare groups hope to fund the program through donations.

Stuart Eskenazi: 206-464-2293