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Animal Rescuers Concerned About Longtime Domestic Rabbit Population At Citrus Heights Park

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A battle over bunny safety is boiling over at a Sacramento County park.

Rescuers are swooping in to save a colony of feral domestic rabbits that have roamed free at Crosswoods Community Park in Citrus Heights for decades, but the neighbors who feed them say the bunnies don't need saving.

"We name them. We take care of them. People take them to the vet when they're actually injured or sick," said Claire Manzer-Lovesee, a feeder.

A local rabbit rescue group sees the situation differently.

"It's really nice that they care about them, but they're really not understanding that they're domestic," said Caty, a volunteer with Friends of Unwanted Rabbits.

Caty said the organization recently captured and rehabbed roughly twenty of the rabbits with plans to adopt them out.

"When we come, we get verbally and physically harassed because people are very upset that we are 'stealing the rabbits,' " she said.

The back and forth battle now involves park district leaders who find themselves trying to solve a delicate population problem. Animal Control officials said it is legal for people to remove domestic animals from a public place, but the hope is to find a compromise solution.

"One of the things we're thinking about is what we're calling our indoor-outdoor aviary," said Dave Mitchell, the director of Sunrise Recreational Park District. "So the bunnies could be in air condition and heat controlled indoors yet the public can still come by and look through the plexiglass windows."

Feeders like Bob Lovesee and his wife Claire Manzer-Lovesee say they don't want to lose a little piece of their family.

"These rabbits have been here for generations, my mother used to feed them in the late 1960s," Bob said.

It's a battle over what's best.

"The vast majority of them are very healthy and very well fed you can tell just by looking at them," he said.

Rescuers disagree.

"They don't survive in the wild. They are susceptible to diseases, a lot of them have horrible painful ear mites," Caty said.

An entrenched rabbit habitat is now facing its biggest upheaval in decades.

The Sunrise Recreational Park District is working with Citrus Heights Animal Control on organizing a meeting between all of the different rabbit rescue groups about what the next steps should be.

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