Hare-raising rescue: CHP saves massive rabbit from a Santa Cruz highway

In the dark of night, a construction crew working this week along a Santa Cruz highway discovered a large rabbit close to the roadway.

No, a massive rabbit.

The animal was larger than most infants, easily stretching the length of a grown man's torso. It weighed more than 26 pounds.

The sumo-sized rabbit was not, however, as quick on its feet as your garden-variety bunny. The construction workers and California Highway Patrol officers were able to corral the rabbit — which they nicknamed "Bugs" — to take it to an animal hospital; it eventually ended up in the care of the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter.

"It's definitely not a wild rabbit," said Amber Rowland, general manager for Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter. "It's definitely a domesticated rabbit. Whether it was cared for as a pet or kept as an agricultural animal or a novelty, it's hard to say. The animal was very grumpy about handling."

Interestingly, she said the rabbit's size is not uncommon for its breed, a Flemish giant, which are some of the largest rabbits in the world and are often kept as pets.

Read more: California’s surfboard-mooching sea otter has returned to Santa Cruz for the summer

In an initial evaluation, shelter staff said they found the rabbit had some puncture wounds and gaps in the fur near its neck — evidence that it had probably been attacked by some sort of predator, Rowland said. But she said the animal is now recovering and is residing at a partner facility focused on "rabbit specialty placement." She declined to reveal the specific location.

Rowland said the rabbit's owner should contact the shelter, and that their team remains hopeful that "a caring family" will reach out.

"We're hoping that an owner will come forward, but it's hard to say," she said. "Shelters receive animals under different circumstances all the time. Sometimes those are accidental" — as when an animal escapes — but "sometimes animals get abandoned by owners who don't want to take care of them anymore."

After a few days with the rabbit on hold for the owner, the shelter will work to find a permanent home for the rabbit if it is healthy enough for adoption, Rowland said.

Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.