In This New Zealand Town, Easter Is All About Wiping Out Bunnies

In Christian countries around the world, the Easter Bunny is a beloved symbol of one of the world’s most popular holidays, but in one New Zealand town, bunnies are such a plague for farmers that locals spend Easter wiping them out.

In New Zealand, rabbits are an introduced species that threatens both the country’s biodiversity and its agriculture. They are essentially pests that have to be culled in order to minimize the damage they cause. The town of Alexandra, in Central Otago, has turned the mass culling of rabbits into an event known as The Great Easter Bunny Hunt, which attracts hundreds of hunters from all over the country. The local Alexandra Lions club has organized the event for the last 25 years, which has become popular both with hunters and the local population, including kids, many of whom take part in the “celebration”.

Photo: Pixabay

“It’s always been the Easter Bunny Hunt. That has a connotation for some people as a time of religious celebration and also a fun time for kids – but a lot of kids participate in our event,” long-time convenor Dave Ramsay said. “It’s something they look forward to from year to year.”

This year The Great Easter Bunny Hunt was held for the first time since 2017. In the previous two years, the event was cancelled due to a great fire and then coronavirus, and in 2018 due to the regional council’s K5 rabbit virus release program. As you can imagine, everyone was eager to return to tradition, so the hunt was expanded from the usual 24 hours to two nights this year.


Between 8am on Good Friday and noon on Easter Sunday 11,968 rabbits were shot, along with a few hundred other local pests, including possums, turkeys and stoats. The tally was described as “a very presentable total”, but one that is unlikely to have any significant effect on the total population in the area.

Believe it or not, the culling of tens of thousands of bunnies in just a couple of days left most locals cold. While some do see the The Great Easter Bunny Hunt as a bloody affair, Ramsay claims the last protest over the event was about 15 years ago.


“It’s a recognized pest and I think the community’s in full support of it – a lot of people have them in their veggie gardens now,” Dave Ramsay said, adding that the hunt highlights the rabbit plague in the public eye and “it also gives the farmers a bit of a break from their vigilance”.