The population of bunnies has exploded along the sports fields at the Leopold III Avenue. The pitches are surrounded by a vast natural area of 60 hectares where the rabbits can easily reproduce.
"But the problem is mainly due to the fact that they have become immune for myxomatosis, probably because they have mixed with domesticated rabbits. The disease kept the rabbit population under control in the past, but hasn't been seen for 10 to 12 years now", explains Lieven Stubbe of the Ieper Environment Department.
The problem is not new, but now the bunnies are causing too much damage to sports infrastructure. The VRT was told that the rabbits are causing damage to a pole vault mat worth several thousands of euros, and are making holes in the grassfield. Their excrements are also causing nuisance.
Birds of prey will be deployed to deter the animals and a ferret should do the rest. Ieper says that this method has been used before, and that it is cooperating with the environmental agency Natuur en Bos. No hunting is allowed on the sports fields because they are part of the urban area.