Town is hopping: New event capitalizing on a burgeoning bunny population

Bunny fever is gripping Langley. Now the merchants have a new event they hope will get the town hopping during a traditionally slow time.

Bunny fever is gripping Langley.

Now the merchants have a new event they hope will get the town hopping during a traditionally slow time.

The floppy eared, cuddly rabbits roaming the city and dividing its residents as to how they should be managed are now the mascot behind Bunny Daze.

Created by the Langley Main Street Association, the event came about as naturally as the rabbits themselves, which is to say it sort of sprang up and rapidly generated.

Bunny Daze started Monday and continues through Saturday. It’s a loose organization of a “shop hop” to drive retail business in the city’s downtown business core.

Hopscotch blocks are taped onto sidewalks for a bit of bunny-like bounding. Stuffed animal rabbits are hidden around downtown and, of course, there’s shopping.

The Village by the Sea has capitalized on other animals for economic success before. With regular gray whale visits just offshore, the city already has a Whale Day Parade in April that draws hundreds to help bestow a blessing upon the whales, whether or not they show up in Saratoga Passage that day.

So why not “Bunny Daze”?

“Because of all the bunny issues in town, the stores have gotten behind it and have all kinds of bunny things,” said Langley Main Street Association Program Coordinator Lorinda Kay.

“There are paintings and sculptures and T-shirts and stuffed bunnies and bunny books.”

“What better thing to do than promote that as well?”

“We’re in bunny fever here, that’s for sure,” Kay said.

Langley’s booming domestic rabbit population gained national headlines this past year. The city, South Whidbey School District and county fairgrounds representatives grappled with the challenge of what to do about it.

At first, they hoped to have them killed, but pushback from people asking for a “compassionate response” to the animals resulted in the three agencies pursuing non-lethal options.

For now, the prevailing idea is to flush them out of their warrens and dens, make their homes less suitable by closing them off or marking them with ferret musk, and closing off access to habitats under decks and homes.

Stories about the furry critters damaging lawns and tunneling under play fields multiplied and that led visitors to ask locals and merchants, “Where are the bunnies?”

“It is now the No. 1 question asked at the chamber, ‘Where can I find the rabbits?’ ” Mayor Tim Callison said.

Sassy Siren owner Jennifer Krouse said she receives questions from visitors about the rabbits, such as: What’s with the bunnies? What’s going on with all the bunnies?

Krouse said she happily replies that they’re mostly domestic, likely descendants of rabbits that escaped during the annual fair’s animal scramble, and that the city isn’t interested in killing them.

When it comes to her own opinion, though, Krouse is happy to stay as quiet as a bunny.

“I just plead the Fifth,” she said.

Business owners view Bunny Daze as another draw during the slow winter months.

Between May and September, things are fine in Langley, Krouse said. But there are times after the holiday rush in December and January when she averages only five visitors a day.

Some days, she doesn’t process a single sale.

“The thing that really draws people into the town is events,” she said. “Mystery weekend has saved me.”

For a while, stores have offered bunny-themed wares — candies at Sweet Mona’s Chocolate Boutique, T-shirts at Wish, chocolates at the former P.S. Suisse — but now it’s being coordinated with a capstone event, a mayoral proclamation.

Just what Callison will say is yet to be ferreted — or, perhaps, rabbited — out. But he confirmed that his involvement isn’t a tipping of the hand one way or the other with regard to the city’s stance on the rabbits.

“I don’t think there’s any big call to eliminate them at this point,” Callison said. “People are reconciling to them.”