Langley to explore new wildlife policy

In the wake of a disease affecting Langley’s rabbits, the city is forming a wildlife subcommittee.

In the wake of a deadly disease affecting Langley’s population of feral domestic rabbits, the city is forming a subcommittee to address issues related to wildlife.

During a city council meeting this week, Nathan Goodman of the Highland Neighborhood Wildlife Committee shared his neighborhood’s efforts to protect and live harmoniously with the Langley bunnies. A small minority of people living within his community believe they can kill the rabbits that hop onto their property, Goodman said, and the neighborhood ended up passing rules prohibiting this behavior.

He urged the council to consider doing the same at the municipal level and asked the council to authorize a subcommittee to investigate whether it’s appropriate for the city to have such rules.

Councilmember Rhonda Salerno volunteered to join the citizens who have put some research into this issue already as part of the new subcommittee.

The council’s discussion evolved to include other forms of wildlife, such as deer. Multiple council members said they had seen or heard of people feeding rabbits and deer, and wondered about prohibiting this behavior altogether in order to limit the spread of disease, among other things. Finance Director Wanda Grone pointed out that the town of Coupeville passed an ordinance a few years ago banning the feeding of wildlife.

Public Works Director Randi Perry suggested that the new advisory group could work with the existing Parks and Open Space Commission. The motion to create the ad hoc advisory group addressing wildlife concerns passed 4-0, with Councilmember Thomas Gill abstaining from the vote because he wanted more information from experts at the state level.

“This conversation is not new in the city,” he said of the bunny debate. “We’ve had this conversation about every three years for time immemorial.”

He suggested learning from the San Juan Islands about what they did when the rabbit hemorrhagic disease struck in 2019.

Mayor Scott Chaplin said he looked at the city’s current circumstances with the disease as a dry run. This past week, the city worked together with Island Disposal to provide drop-off sites for the collection of rabbit carcasses.

“If we have the same situation with the deer population, it’s going to be much harder to deal with,” he said.