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Bunnies Go to College, but Their Minds Are on Their Stomachs and Opposite Sex

Times Staff Writer

For the armies of hungry animals that invade the place each day, California State University, San Bernardino, has become a regular smorgasbord, according to irate campus officials.

“As soon as we prepare the ground with grass seed, pigeons eat the seed,” said a frustrated Robert Lohnes, assistant director of plant operations at the school. “What grows, rabbits eat. What’s left, the squirrels get. It’s a regular three-ring circus here.”

But it’s the hordes of rabbits that have groundskeepers up in arms.

It seems that massive development on nearby hillsides over the last year has driven scads of bunnies in search of new feeding grounds to the lush lawns and playing fields of the 437-acre campus.

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That, plus the fact that natural predators such as coyotes have left for higher ground in recent years, has left the rabbits free to do what they are famous for, Lohnes said.

“In the last year alone, we’ve spent $5,000 to $6,000 on new grass,” said Lohnes, who has counted 500 rabbits at a time on the lawn. No sooner is new grass planted than the furry critters are “rooting it out like Roto-Rooters,” he said.

Edna Steinman, director of public information, said the rabbits have been seen brazenly washing down their meals of grass roots and young trees with water they lap up at the campus fountain.

“They aren’t great big, long, rangy jack rabbits,” she said. “They are cute little cottontails.”

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Therein lies the major problem in finding a remedy.

“How do you hurt something so cute?” asked Lohnes, who believes he may have found a “humane” solution. It is called the “hot-sauce defense.”

Last month, Lohnes contacted Hydrex Pest Control of the Inland Empire, which advertised a repellent that burns the mouths of animals that try to eat vegetation sprayed with the material.

“I told them why it’s happening,” said Hydrex spokesman L. J. Hollingworth. “If you were starving to death and a guy up the street was barbecuing steaks and offered you some for free, hey, you’d go over there.”

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Hollingworth added that to do the job right, the entire campus may have to be sprayed with the hot-sauce product, which would “cost some money.”


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