THE bunnies are back... just in time for Easter.
A year after the resident rabbit population on Castle Hill was exterminated by gassing, Bright Eyes, Bobtail and a few mates are creeping back and are all set to colonise the visitor attraction once more.
A group of rabbits was spotted this week, quietly munching the grass beside the daffodil patches on the steep slope overlooking the river.
And they appear to be occupying the old burrows that were left after the eradication programme last February and March.
The furry invaders looked like mature wild rabbits, but one was smaller with distinctive tan fur, possibly an escaped pet.
When last year’s cull was carried out, Highland Council spokeswoman said it was to "protect the integrity and stability of the banks of the hill underpinning Inverness Castle which was being undermined by the burrowing rabbits. There was concern that the undermining might be a risk to workers mowing the grass on the steep slopes beneath the castle.
A spokeswoman added: "The council has a duty to both the public, and also its employees and grounds maintenance contractors, to ensure that the area is kept safe.
"Recently the rabbit population has got out of control and the increase in their activity was making the banks unsafe.
"Only licensed operators are allowed to undertake pest control and the council’s grounds maintenance contractor instructed a specialist company to carry out the works which included gassing as the method of cull."
When asked about the apparent return of the rabbits a council spokeswoman said this week: "We have no plans for any culling of rabbits at the current time."
When last year’s cull was announced Councillor Donnie Kerr agreed the rabbit numbers needed to be brought under control, but he was not happy about gassing them and would have preferred more traditional methods of trapping and killing them.
And his words at the time were prophetic. He said: "Attempts to eradicate the rabbits from the hill completely will probably end in failure anyway.
"They’ll just keep coming back, year after year. You won’t be able to stop them re-colonising the area."
Another Easter attraction at the historic 175-year-old Inverness Castle will be the North Tower viewing platform which will be opened in time for the big holiday. To mark the occasion the public will be admitted free during the first week.
Highland Council and the city common good fund has contributed to the new attraction which will give spectacular views down the Great Glen and out to Fort George and the Black Isle.
The grounds of the castle have also been given a makeover with new paths and benches and Castle Wynd, the main pedestrian route to the castle, has been upgraded using Inverness city deal money.