Due to the extensive spread of rabbits in Iceland, the species is now being considered as part of the country’s wild fauna. The stock numbers hundreds or even thousands of animals. Environment authorities believe it should be exterminated.Rabbits in Ellidaárdalur valley in Reykjavík. Photo by Zoë Robert.
Ævar Petersen, a specialist at the Icelandic Institute of Natural History (NÍ), told Fréttablaðið, that rabbits have earned the right to be considered a wild animal stock in Iceland, tracing its history back to the 19th century.
The stock has flourished and then become extinct many times since then, but the current stock exists because people have released their pets into the wild.
In May 2012, the environment and transport division of Reykjavík City Council applied for a legal exemption to decrease the number of rabbits within city limits due to damages caused by them, mainly on vegetation.
The exemption was granted and studies into the distribution of rabbits were called for, along with evaluation of possible problems caused by rabbits and suggestions for a future solution. A report on these issues, carried out by engineering firm Verkís, has now been completed.
Rabbits were counted in eight locations in Reykjavík in March 2012, while the stock is at its low point. Most rabbits were found in Elliðaárdalur valley by Mjódd (85 percent), where people have fed them over the winter.
It is considered likely that in light of a warming climate and the species’ adaptability, it may spread quickly if no action is taken. Many consider rabbits to be vermin.
The report also states that in a response from the Ministry for the Environment issued on June 8, 2010, to an enquiry by city authorities, NÍ recommended that rabbits be exterminated from Icelandic nature and that the Environment Agency of Iceland agreed.
Click here to read more about rabbits in Iceland.