Rabbit hunt to trim pests' numbers at Heidelberg housing area
HEIDELBERG, Germany — A German forester will be hunting rabbits on Patrick Henry Village during the next month.
The first hunt will begin at 9 p.m. Wednesday, according to Werner Rodach, who is in charge of the event, and will last until about 3 a.m.
The rabbits, considered pests by some, have overpopulated within the housing area, said Rodach. Many of the rabbits are infected with myxomatosis, a viral disease with gruesome symptoms, he added.
Rodach uses a silenced .22-caliber rifle with a scope during the hunts, which are planned for Wednesdays for the next three weeks. Rodach begins hunting along the base perimeter at 9 p.m. and works his way into the more populated areas after midnight, when most residents are asleep.
He said he makes sure the area is clear before pulling the trigger, he said.
“It’s 100 percent safe,” Rodach said. “I look every time so that I have background for the bullet.”
The rabbits are known to cause damage to property, base officials said last year.
Most would die from myxomatosis, a virus unleashed in Australia in the 1950s to control the wild rabbit population, Rodach said.
A French doctor imported the disease to Europe to kill rabbits on his estate near Paris, Radach said, but some infected rabbits got loose and the disease spread. Once infected, flesh around the rabbit’s eyes and nose swell, rendering the rabbit unable to care for itself. Within a couple of weeks, the animal dies.
The virus does not affect humans or household pets, Rodach said.
Last year, Rodach killed more than 500 rabbits. Of that, about 400 were infected with myxomatosis, he said.
Unlike past years, the local command has not publicized the hunts to the base community. Officials at the 411th Base Support Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Diane Vanderpot, refused to discuss the planned hunts with Stars and Stripes.
Last year, Lt. Col. Earl Teeter, the previous base commander, notified the public about the hunts several weeks in advance through the local command information newspaper, mass e-mails and community briefings.
Teeter later told Stars and Stripes that a newspaper article on the hunts sparked minor protests and complaints.
Rodach said that last year a resident waited for Rodach at the entrance gate to the housing area just south of Heidelberg.
“She said I was not welcome in the area,” Rodach said. “She wanted to walk around the fence line with her child during the night so it would be impossible for me to hunt.”
During the four years he has hunted, last year was the only time he met with protest, Rodach said. A military police officer accompanied Rodach in case residents were concerned or came near.