Helsinki’s rabbit control official is no Elmer Fudd
Contrary to what some might think, Antti J. Rautiainen is no shotgun-toting Elmer Fudd stereotype lurking obsessively in the bushes of Helsinki yearning for the chance to blast a bunny on sight.
Although he has been working full time since November as the head of the city’s rabbit control project, he insists that there is no personal wrath involved.
I try to keep a low profile, as rabbits raise quite a bit of emotion among residents.”
The rabbit question sparks emotions both for and against.
At first most people see them as cute furry little creatures, but damage caused to bushes in people’s yards have caused many to change their minds.
“For instance, the slope in the Alppipuisto park is like Swiss cheese, with rabbits digging holes for themselves. They are also a problem for allotment gardens”, Rautiainen says.
Helsinki has an estimated 7,000 rabbits, and the population is also growing in neighbouring Espoo and Vantaa.
Rautiainen will not say how much the population can grow before the problem is out of control.
“It depends on how much the residents can tolerate.”
The growing population of non-indigenous rabbits is being felt in the balance of urban wildlife. The growth in the rabbit population has led to a decline in the number of hares.
“A rabbit is an animal that stakes out its own territory. Sometimes a rabbit will run at full speed toward a hare to force it out of its territory.”
The rabbit population has been culled by 500 while Rautiainen has been at his job.
Shotguns, bows and arrows, traps, and ferrets have been used in the effort. A few dozen have been caught by ferrets.
New methods are to be tried as well. Nets 50 to 100 metres long have been ordered from Britain, to be set up near areas where rabbits eat.
“We frighten the rabbits, and they run into the nets. That way we can get many of them at a time.”
Legislative change is also in store. Rautiainen is working on an amendment to a statute linked with the Finnish law on hunting.
Shooting rabbits in Helsinki now requires special permission.
“The change would lift some of the bureaucracy. When the law was passed, there was no rabbit problem.”
Previously in HS International Edition:
Wild rabbits came to the heart of Helsinki (3.11.2005)
Civil servant wants to use ferrets to trap Helsinki´s wild rabbits (15.1.2008)
Helsinkís wild rabbits munch holes in Olympic Stadium football nets (9.9.2008)
Helsinki to begin culling wild rabbit population (30.1.2008)