In early 2015, Dave Schweiger, a longtime Las Vegas resident, came home from work to find his teenage daughter sitting on the lawn, surrounded by six Bunnies. These weren’t the dun-colored jackrabbits of the Nevada desert: they were bonafide domestic bunnies, sleek and multipatterned, with cute ears and fuzzy coats. The Schweigers, who are animal lovers, were unfazed. They started buying extra carrots on their weekly trip to Costco.
But six bunnies doesn’t stay six bunnies for long. Within two months, there were 24 living under the Schweiger’s shed. When, with the help of a local rescue center, Dave caught them and took them to the vet to get neutered, he found out several of his new friends were pregnant again. “In another month, we would have had over 50,” he says. If they hadn’t taken action, the Schweigers’ yard might have turned into a common, but little-known Sin City feature: the bunny refugee camp.
The yards, parks and lots of Vegas are home to thousands of feral rabbits. Known as “bunny dump sites” to the legions of volunteers that care for their residents, they’re strange places, more tragic than adorable, where the human heart clashes with the limited resources of the state. Released by overwhelmed pet-owners and left to breed, the rabbits now overwhelm any attempt at government control, digging up public property, chewing on pipes, and ending up dead in the sewers. To survive, they depend entirely on the kindness of self-identified “bunny-lovers”—volunteers faced with an impossible task.
Schweiger works near one of the more legendary dump sites, a state-run mental health facility in the center-west of the city. It’s home to hundreds, if not thousands, of rabbits—although if you didn’t already know that, you might not find out. “You go out to the field and you don’t see any,” Schweiger says. “I start throwing out hay, romaine lettuce, and carrots, and they just come out of everywhere.”
Schweiger runs an awareness-building website called Las-Vegas-Bunnies.com, and often meets other concerned citizens at this particular site to feed and check on the rabbits. In a video from his most recent visit, scores of excited bunnies traipse over the dead grass and under the picnic tables as volunteers strew bits of lettuce across the ground.