Babylon Animal Shelter is using a conference room to hold the increasing number of rabbits being surrended. NewsdayTV's Steve Langford reports.  Credit: Drew Singh

A symbol of the Easter season has arrived early in Babylon — and it's come in abundance.

Bunnies have inundated the town's animal shelter, and with 18 currently in-house and space running out, officials are concerned about an even bigger influx after the spring holiday. 

The facility has been housing as many two dozen rabbits at a time, forcing officials to convert a conference room into a space the shelter's director, Chris Elton, calls its "Wabbit room" — in a light-hearted ode to Bugs Bunny cartoons.

“A year ago, if … I had four rabbits at the shelter at the same time that would be a lot,” said Elton. “This is new territory for us. I’ve been doing this for 16 years and this year has been unprecedented as far as rabbits go.”

He said the surge started with one family who dropped off “a bunch." But as surrenders have continued, Elton said other rabbits also have joined the shelter's roster of adoptable animals following captures in parks and other grassy areas after pet abandonments.

Shelter officials in nearby towns said they either haven’t seen a recent jump in rabbit numbers or don’t take them in.

The problem of rabbit abandonment doesn't stop at Babylon's borders, said Denise Bertolotti of Long Island Rabbit Rescue, an organization that rehomes surrendered and abandoned rabbits after getting them veterinary care.

“The number of abandoned rabbits on Long Island is astounding,” she added. “We get reports of between 30 to 60 per month from all over the Island. And that’s just people who see them abandoned and take the time to email us.”

Volunteers with the organization across the island currently are fostering 56 rabbits, Bertolotti said. 

Last year the group had more than 1,000 people contact them looking to rehome rabbits they had bought in a store. State legislation banning rabbit sales at retail pet shops goes into effect next year. 

Wild rabbits have pointy faces and are similar in color to squirrels, but their domestic counterparts can be identified by their floppy ears and black, white or ginger coloring, the rescue expert said.

Domestic rabbits released into the wild have little chance of survival, according to Bertolotti.

The Babylon shelter microchips and either spays or neuters the bunnies before caring for them until they are adopted.

“They are not the most inexpensive animal to keep up,” Elton said. “You need a good supply of wood chips and timothy hay and rabbit feed and greens.”

Contrary to popular belief, carrots are not a main food source for rabbits because of their sweetness, Bertolotti said.

“Bugs Bunny had us all fooled,” she added.

But the rabbit’s reputation for reproducing is well-established, so although not many veterinarians treat rabbits, spaying and neutering is critical, according to Bertolotti.

Female rabbits can have litters of up to 15 babies every 28 days and can become pregnant within half an hour of giving birth, she said.

Rabbits also cannot be kept around dogs and cannot be left alone for long periods like cats, according to the rescue expert. She said they need steady care and monitoring because, as prey animals, they often show no signs of distress if ill or injured until their condition becomes grave.

With Easter approaching, the Babylon shelter soon may see another influx of surrendered rabbits, Elton said. 

Bertolotti said her group sees an uptick in surrenders in the months after Christmas and Easter.

“The numbers are just impossible to keep up with,” she added.

A symbol of the Easter season has arrived early in Babylon — and it's come in abundance.

Bunnies have inundated the town's animal shelter, and with 18 currently in-house and space running out, officials are concerned about an even bigger influx after the spring holiday. 

The facility has been housing as many two dozen rabbits at a time, forcing officials to convert a conference room into a space the shelter's director, Chris Elton, calls its "Wabbit room" — in a light-hearted ode to Bugs Bunny cartoons.

“A year ago, if … I had four rabbits at the shelter at the same time that would be a lot,” said Elton. “This is new territory for us. I’ve been doing this for 16 years and this year has been unprecedented as far as rabbits go.”

He said the surge started with one family who dropped off “a bunch." But as surrenders have continued, Elton said other rabbits also have joined the shelter's roster of adoptable animals following captures in parks and other grassy areas after pet abandonments.

Shelter officials in nearby towns said they either haven’t seen a recent jump in rabbit numbers or don’t take them in.

The problem of rabbit abandonment doesn't stop at Babylon's borders, said Denise Bertolotti of Long Island Rabbit Rescue, an organization that rehomes surrendered and abandoned rabbits after getting them veterinary care.

“The number of abandoned rabbits on Long Island is astounding,” she added. “We get reports of between 30 to 60 per month from all over the Island. And that’s just people who see them abandoned and take the time to email us.”

Volunteers with the organization across the island currently are fostering 56 rabbits, Bertolotti said. 

Last year the group had more than 1,000 people contact them looking to rehome rabbits they had bought in a store. State legislation banning rabbit sales at retail pet shops goes into effect next year. 

Wild rabbits have pointy faces and are similar in color to squirrels, but their domestic counterparts can be identified by their floppy ears and black, white or ginger coloring, the rescue expert said.

Domestic rabbits released into the wild have little chance of survival, according to Bertolotti.

The Babylon shelter microchips and either spays or neuters the bunnies before caring for them until they are adopted.

Babylon Town Animal Shelter employee Angela Diangson holds a bunny...

Babylon Town Animal Shelter employee Angela Diangson holds a bunny on Tuesday at the facility, where a conference room was converted to house an influx of surrendered and abandoned bunnies.

Credit: Danielle Silverman

“They are not the most inexpensive animal to keep up,” Elton said. “You need a good supply of wood chips and timothy hay and rabbit feed and greens.”

Contrary to popular belief, carrots are not a main food source for rabbits because of their sweetness, Bertolotti said.

“Bugs Bunny had us all fooled,” she added.

But the rabbit’s reputation for reproducing is well-established, so although not many veterinarians treat rabbits, spaying and neutering is critical, according to Bertolotti.

Female rabbits can have litters of up to 15 babies every 28 days and can become pregnant within half an hour of giving birth, she said.

Rabbits also cannot be kept around dogs and cannot be left alone for long periods like cats, according to the rescue expert. She said they need steady care and monitoring because, as prey animals, they often show no signs of distress if ill or injured until their condition becomes grave.

With Easter approaching, the Babylon shelter soon may see another influx of surrendered rabbits, Elton said. 

Bertolotti said her group sees an uptick in surrenders in the months after Christmas and Easter.

“The numbers are just impossible to keep up with,” she added.

Happy Rabbits Do This

Happy and relaxed rabbits purr.

They also can perform a "binky," a giant leap, kick and twist in midair.

Source: House Rabbit Society

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Summer camp complaints . . . Suffolk double dippers . . . LI's best BBQ Credit: Newsday

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