The shores of Langley on Whidbey Island are under siege. The earth riddled with holes, and more. The problem is so bad, kids at Langley Middle School have to be on the lookout for tiny landmines whenever they go out for PE.
"There is feces everywhere and there are some illnesses that can be carried and transmitted," said Brian Miller. Facilities Director for the South Whidbey School District. "Every day there are new holes, and the ones we've filled in are dug out, again."
But the culprits aren't gophers or moles or even rats.
Yes, bunnies. Adorable, fluffy, long eared bunnies. Hundreds of them. All over town.
"They are cute, but they have an impact on our community," said Miller.
Countless wild rabbits are digging up the middle school football field that the district just paid $80,000 to restore. They're destroying the foundations of buildings at the Island County Fairgrounds, and posing health risks to people and pets. The critters have found a safe shelter in the city, away from predators. Some people feed them and there are plenty of buildings under which to burrow.
It's believed they are the prolific progeny of a few European hares that escaped from the fairgrounds decades ago. They've lived in relative harmony, until now.
"Everybody is saying we've never seen it like this before," said Miller.
If anyone should have a wild hare over the rabbits it's Babs Small.
They were breeding like, well, like bunnies under her shed last year. About 100 babies were born.
"We would watch them instead of watching TV," she said.
Everything from relocation to releasing raptors to eat them is being considered. Babs, however, says people should just do what she did after the shed incident. She is now keeping the rabbits from nesting by installing pavers and chicken wire around potential breeding grounds. That, along with not feeding them, would force the bunnies back into the forests where predators and nature can take their course.
"I would just prefer a more natural solution than extinction, than trying to just exterminate them," she said.
The middle school has taken some of those measures, but dozens of bunnies still hop all across campus every day. The district is now considering spending $60,000 to fence the property off.
A community meeting is scheduled for October 7 to discuss how to handle the problem. Whatever decision is made, everyone in Langley is simply hoping it doesn't lead them further down the proverbial rabbit hole.