LAMOINE — There are too many bunnies roaming the streets of Las Vegas.
As a result, that city’s animal advocates decided they would find a group that could look after the furry mammals with big ears. After a search, including social media scouting, Las Vegas groups contacted the Cottontail Cottage Rabbit Sanctuary in Lamoine to take in some bunnies.
About 30 of them will be moving to the Shore Road facility, where they’ll be living in a brand new barn. For the nonprofit’s executive director, Jenny Nichols, the timing has been perfect.
She was recently looking to expand her rabbit-rescue organization’s operating space and launched a fundraiser to have a new barn built by an Amish company in Pennsylvania — the same group that had built the barn Nichols already uses.
“We love how it was built,” she said. “It’s really rugged; it’s perfect for the bunnies.”
Nichols was contacted by the Nevada group Bunnies Matter, which was trying to find a new home for rabbits following a disturbing turn of events in Las Vegas. As National Geographic reported in February, dozens of bunnies were found poisoned on the grounds of a facility.
Years earlier, the staff at the children’s facility believed letting loose a few rabbits on the grounds would be good therapy. By 2018, there were between 800 and 1,000 bunnies at the site.
Then, according to National Geographic, volunteers watched a car drive up and drop off lettuce that was coated in antifreeze, which is lethal for the small animals.
The Vegas bunnies will be joining about 25 rabbits that already call Lamoine home. The rabbits are looked after by Nichols and her daughters, 17-year-old Hadley Bierman and 16-year-old Emmaline Bierman, both Mount Desert Island High School students. They also keep rescue cats and rats, and they have some Corgis.
“Our house is like Doctor Doolittle,” Nichols said.
On May 18, members of the Cottontail team will receive their new barn from Pennsylvania, and they’re in the midst of fundraising to make that project happen.
“We are about halfway towards making our goal of $12K to purchase a new barn,” Nichols said. “Anyone who donates $1K will have their names put on a plaque outside of the barn. We are calling them our ‘Bunny Angels.’”
The organization’s upcoming open house will not only unveil the new barn but give supporters a chance to meet the Vegas bunnies.
Cottontail Cottage Rabbit Sanctuary began in 2012.
“Word of mouth kind of got out we took in a bunny from someone,” Nichols said. “One bunny became another … it wasn’t something we planned for.”
But by the following year, the team had achieved nonprofit status and was licensed with the Maine animal welfare agency. Now, not only do its members take in bunnies, but they also provide advice to people around the world through their social media accounts.
Nichols’ background helps the organization thrive, even if it seems disconnected from animal care. She holds a degree in English literature, and she uses her writing skills to write grants for the organization. They use the funds to care for the animals at their “micro-farm” just down the street from Lamoine’s Grange.
Hadley and Emmaline also play a key role in helping her take care of the rabbits.
“We have an awesome volunteer base, but we’re also very family-run,” Nichols said.
Volunteer drivers will be making the trip to Vegas in the middle of May to transport a large number of the rabbits to approved shelters and rescues across the nation. The bunnies will arrive in Lamoine on May 24.
Donations for the new barn and to help support the rescue effort of the Vegas bunnies can be made at www.ccrabbitrescue.org or mailed to: CCRS, 21 Cottontail Lane, Lamoine, ME 04605.