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Coney Island Rabbit

This runaway rabbit survived 1-1/2 years and two winters under the Coney Island Boardwalk before being rescued on May 27. Photo © Tatyana Leonova


Coney Island was named Conyne Eylandt –Rabbit Island– by the Dutch after the wild rabbits that lived here in the 17th century, but for the past 1-1/2 years the only coney left in Coney has been a Californian breed of domestic rabbit living under the boardwalk. A few days ago ATZ received news of its capture from William Leung, whose previous rescue of a rabbit he would name Steeplechase after Coney’s famed park was featured in “Coney Island Bunny Rescued After 21 Days on The Run” (January 18, 2014).

The second bunny who ran off during the bulldozing of the Coney Island Community Garden was rescued on May 27 after surviving for 16 months and two winters under the Coney Island Boardwalk! It’s an amazing story of the compassion and tenacity of both William and Tatyana Leonova, a caretaker of the Boardwalk’s feral cats, who fed the rabbit vegetables as well as the dry food on which it managed to survive through the winters.

Rabbit Trio

William Leung’s Pet Rabbit Trio Duchess, Chad, and Steeplechase, who was rescued in Coney Island in 2014. Photo © Tracy Nuzzo

“It’s been almost a year and half now since Steeplechase was caught and has been living with me,” writes William. “She has bonded with my two little ones as seen in a pic taken a month ago, from left to right: Duchess, Chad, and Steeplechase. But there is another story to tell about Steeplechase’s siblings.” Since the garden was bulldozed in December 2013, William heard there were up to three rabbits in the garden from the time they were babies. In the summer of 2014 he learned of a rabbit sighting in the same general area where Steeplechase was caught and made the trip from his Queens home to investigate.

“But this time of the summer, the grass and brushes were as tall as me, and as I peered through to where the garden used to be, there was no way anything could be seen,” William recalls. “But as luck or fate would have it, Tatyana Leonova, one of the dedicated feral cat care givers passed by and got curious about me poking at the fence. She told me about the sighting of a rabbit running around and said she had been trying to feed it, but didn’t see the rabbit regularly. I asked her if there was a way to trap the rabbit, if they do I will take it.” Tatyana agreed, but as the months passed and winter came to the boardwalk, there was no word.

Coney Island Rabbit

Runaway rabbit dining on vegetables under the Coney Island Boardwalk. Photo © Tatyana Leonova

“When I reached out to Tatyana she said they had not been able to catch the rabbit so I made a trip out in January of 2015 to make an attempt. As soon as food was put down he was in the box eating, he was so hungry in winter cause there was no grass to eat. But as I pulled up the simple trap I had, the rabbit jumped right out and never came back out again.”

“A few more months passed by before an opportunity in between jobs allowed me two weeks off and I started to make attempts to catch the rabbit again. The first day I was able to get it within netting range but I made the mistake of trying to catch it by lifting it up around it instead of over it. Long story short, the net wasn’t big enough and wasn’t positioned right. The net bent under the weight and it got away again. On the second time, I did not see the rabbit.”

“On the third time I went out there, the rabbit was lounging around but out of reach so I decided to set up a live trap. The rabbit was hanging out in an area now that was finally big enough to fit a large size trap through the fence and under a walkway but he didn’t go in to eat the food. So as my vacation ended, I met with the cat caretaker and asked her to help by keep putting food into the the trap so the rabbit would go in to eat from inside and catch it in the act and manually pop the trap.”

Coney Island Rabbit

Coney Island Rabbit finally captured in trap after many failedattempts. Photo © Tatyana Leonova

“After 5 days and still no luck, Tatyana was getting worried as she thought the rabbit seemed sluggish and was sick but there was nothing I could do, as I was out of ideas. But the very next day, on Wednesday night the 27th of May, I got a series of panicked calls that she had caught the rabbit but couldn’t get the trap out thru the fence.” William drove to Coney Island as soon as he could to fish the trap out.

At home, he fenced off the rescued bunny, which has a severe ear mite infestation, from his other rabbits. “Of course, my rabbits were curious, but the first to show interest was Steeplechase! She looked back at me as if to say, what’s this all about? I cannot be sure if she can remember her sibling after a year and half apart, or if that rabbit was even a sibling, though they are both the same breed.”

Coney Island Rabbit

Natalie the Coney Island Rabbit’s first trip to the vet. Photo © William Leung

The next day he met with a rabbit rescue volunteer to get a dose of medicine for the ear mites. “As I didn’t want to handle it too much and infest my rabbits, I waited until Saturday, the vet visiting day, to find out if it was a girl or boy,” says William. “And it’s a girl! I named her Natalie, after Nathan’s hot dogs. The vet couldn’t do a full exam as she was still not used to human touch so for now she is getting some R & R and her future is hopefully to join my warren but my rabbits have the final say.”

Related Posts on ATZ…

May 29, 2015: Pet Day in Coney Island Offers Costume Contest, Rides on Wonder Wheel

January 8, 2014: Bunny Returns to Bulldozed Coney Island Garden, Kitten Euthanized

September 19, 2013: Photo of the Day: Coney Island Parakeets Go for a Walk

April 1, 2013: Sea Rabbits Swim Ashore in Coney Island, Up For Adoption

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Steeplechase the Coney Island Bunny

Marcie Frishberg of NYC Metro Rabbit Rescue demonstrates how to pet Steeplechase the Coney Island Bunny at Petco in Union Square. March 15, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

The Coney Island “coney” named Steeplechase made her Broadway debut at Union Square Petco on Saturday, where rescue group NYC Metro Rabbit Rescue has an adoption center. There are 4 rabbits that reside there but it was Steeplechase’s first appearance. The refugee from the bulldozed Coney Island Community Garden was rescued by William Leung and fellow volunteers in January after 21 days on the run. Since then, Steeplechase has received medical care and been spayed, and is now being fostered by Leung, who already has four companion rabbits at his home in Queens.

Steeple Chase the Coney Island Bunny

Steeplechase the Coney Island Bunny at NYC Metro Rabbit Rescue adoption center in Union Square Petco. March 15, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

ATZ asked Leung how the Coney Island rabbit is getting along with the other bunnies. “She is still a little shy, but loves attention. She has met my rabbits,” he said. “She was eager to make friends but my female rabbits were jealous and don’t like her. My little boy Chad is smitten with her and would dance for her whenever he sees her through the pens. His current girlfriend Duchess knows that and tries to bite her whenever she sees her.”

Rabbits dance for each other?

“They binky. When he sees her, he binkies all over the place,” explains Leung.

Binky? Okay, so we had to look up the word! Here’s some Bunny Binky Action courtesy of YouTube user Kate Midkiff…

Coney Island was named Conyne Eylandt –Rabbit Island– by the Dutch after the wild rabbits that lived here in the 17th century. But Steeplechase, a white bunny with black ears, is a Californian breed of domestic rabbit and had lived her entire life outdoors in the boardwalk garden and surrounding area until this year.

Steeplechase’s favorite place in Leung’s apartment, which she has the run of at night, is his walk-in closet. The rest of the time she has her own room. “She is very curious and eager to explore,” says Leung. “She likes to climb and jump into things, but if you tell her once not to go somewhere, she actually gets it and won’t go there again, so she is one smart cookie. She is also very good with litter box skill, I mean I have never seen a bun this clean. Not only is she 100% in the litter box, she only uses one corner.”

Union Sqaure Petco NYC Metro Rabbit Rescue

Petco Union Square Manager Josh Axelrod presenting a check for $2240.79 from the Petco Foundation to NYC Metro Rabbit Rescue’s Marcie Frishberg. March 15, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

When ATZ visited on Saturday, Josh Axelrod, the longtime manager of the Union Square store, happened to come by to give a check for $2240.79 from the Petco Foundation to NY Metro Rabbit’s Marcie Frishberg. Axelrod said that $1000 came from a Petco-sponsored contest won by Union Square staff and the balance was raised from customer donations at the checkout counter. The Petco Foundation donates about $15 million a year to help more than 8,000 local animal welfare groups across the country. Union Square Petco also hosts Kitty Kind, where we adopted our cat Talulah about two years ago. On Saturday, Long Island Bulldog Rescue also had a booth and the ASPCA’s adoption van was parked outside.

NYC Metro Rabbit Rescue is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing abandoned New York City rabbits and finding them permanent indoor homes. Their website features a plethora of info, from a documentary on what it’s like to live with a companion rabbit to articles on their care and behavior. In addition to Union Square Petco, the group has rabbit adoption locations at the Petco on Lexington Avenue and 86th Street and the City’s Center for Animal Care and Control (ACC) on 110th Street at 2nd Avenue. The group is a satellite of Rabbit Rescue and Rehab, which is the downstate NY chapter of the House Rabbit Society.

NYC Metro Rabbit

NYC Metro Rabbit, the NYC Satellite of Rabbit Rescue and Rehab, at Petco in Union Square. March 15, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

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Related Posts on ATZ…

January 18, 2014: Coney Island Bunny Rescued After 21 Days on The Run

September 19, 2013: Photo of the Day: Coney Island Parakeets Go for a Walk

June 17, 2013: Photo of the Day: Paquito the Chihuahua in Coney Island

April 1, 2013: Sea Rabbits Swim Ashore in Coney Island, Up For Adoption

Read Full Post »

Coney Island Bunny

Steeplechase, Coney Island Bunny Rescued after 21 Days on the Run. January 26, 2014. Photo © Jozefa Cheman

Steeplechase, the Coney Island “coney” rescued after 21 days on the run, posed for her first official photo today. Want to “Save Coney” and give Steeplechase the bunny a home? This refugee from the bulldozed Coney Island Community Garden will be up for adoption after she is spayed next week.

William Leung, a volunteer with Rabbit Rescue and Rehab successfully “netted” the rabbit, whom he named Steeplechase, on January 18th after ten days of trying to befriend her with bananas and other treats.

“She is scheduled to be spayed next Wednesday,” said Leung, who visited the shy bunny today at New York City’s Animal Care and Control. Rabbit Rescue and Rehab, the New York City chapter of the House Rabbit Society, is the primary bunny rescue group that works with ACC. “Our volunteers go there every day to feed the rabbits,” Leung said.

A list of bunnies up for adoption in New York City is on the group’s petfinder page. Email nyc.metro.rabbits@gmail.com if you are interested in adopting Steeplechase.

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Related Posts on ATZ…

January 18, 2014: Coney Island Bunny Rescued After 21 Days on The Run

January 8, 2014: Bunny Returns to Bulldozed Coney Island Garden, Kitten Euthanized

December 10, 2013: Update on Coney Island Cat ‘Snow Coney’ & His Family

April 1, 2013: Sea Rabbits Swim Ashore in Coney Island, Up For Adoption

Read Full Post »

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