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2007 03 22
Angle of Incident #46: Seminar 8, Vermin And Other Irritants: Part 5
JOHNATHAN WONG WANTED TO TALK ABOUT FERAL RABBITS:


image

Vermin

“What is it about a story of feral bunny rabbits overrunning a small Alberta town that’s so comic?” I asked myself upon seeing the front cover of last Saturday’s National Post. Apparently, the infestation of roughly three thousand critters, descendents of house pets set free or escaped years ago, has become such a problem that in some areas of Canmore the lawns appear as though they were “carpeted in a dark, loamy berber rug” of pellet droppings [1]. Hmm, just nature’s fertilizer an outsider is tempted to quip, unmoved by the full seriousness of the matter. Indeed the residents of the town are divided over whether to support population control measures (i.e. euthanasia) or to let the long-earred, landscape-munching swarms alone.

But as isolated a case in animal-human conflict as it first sounds, the main points of the article bear at least a few noteworthy parallels to that distinctly Canadian approach to the wild, perhaps best demonstrated in Northrop Frye’s The Bush Garden (1971) and Margaret Atwood’s Survival (1972). Frye asserts that “Nature is consistently sinister and menacing in Canadian poetry. And here and there we find glints of a vision beyond nature, … an affirmation of the supremacy of intelligence and humanity over stupid power.” [2] While cuddly-looking rabbits may not fit one’s idea of the sinister and threatening aspects of nature’s otherness, I offer here a pair of etchings by European explorers from the 18th and early 19th century, respectively, depicting those archetypal symbols of wilderness, the beaver and the wolf.

As for Canmore’s rabbits, well, Spring has officially begun.

Notes:

1. Kevin Libin, “Should these bunnies die?,” National Post, March 17, 2007. A1

2. Northrop Frye, The Bush Garden : Essays on the Canadian Imagination [Essays. Selections. 1971]. Toronto: Anansi, 1971. p142

Image credits:

(1) Keith Morison for the National Post

(2) Louis Armand de Lom D’Arce, Baron de Lahontan (1666-1715?). Le Castor. in Dickenson, Victoria and 20 Agnes Etherington Art Centre. First Impressions : European Views of the Natural History of Canada from the 16th to the 19th Century = Premiers Regards : Impressions Européennes De l'Histoire Naturelle Au Canada Du 16e Au 19e Siècle. Kingston Ont.: Agnes Etherington Art Centre, 1992. 41

(3) Sir George Back (1796-1878) and Robert Hood (1796-1821). The White Wolf and a View of the Dog Rib Rock, 1823. in Dickenson, Victoria and 20 Agnes Etherington Art Centre. First Impressions : European Views of the Natural History of Canada from the 16th to the 19th Century = Premiers Regards : Impressions Européennes De l'Histoire Naturelle Au Canada Du 16e Au 19e Siècle. Kingston Ont.: Agnes Etherington Art Centre, 1992. 92


[email this story] Posted by Gary Michael Dault on 03/22 at 04:50 AM

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