Tristan Bonncent has discovered the secret to lower grocery bills.
Chris Pedersen & Sydney Stokoe/the Gauntlet

Entrepreneurial student offers expert advice

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Ask any student about the difficulty of going to school full-time and you'll hear similar stories. Everyday thousands of students have to choose between their rent, school related expenses and food on limited budgets. But one student has discovered an ingenious way to not only save money on food this spring, but also help to control the pest population at the University of Calgary.

Third-year engineering student Tristan Bonncent said he had just finished his last tub of ramen noodles and was worried he wouldn't be able to eat for the rest of the week when he solved the problem.

"I was totally cleaned out," said Bonncent. "I was walking around the school looking for dropped change in the grass when I got the idea."

Bonncent says he looked up to see a group of rabbits in front of him and the bright student thought of an idea.

"At that point I was basically starving," Bonncent said. "I saw the bunnies and how fat they were and thought 'these aren't pets, they're wild animals. Nobody is going to miss them.' "

The rabbits are a well-known sight on campus but typically ignored by students and staff, something that Bonncent said helped him initially.

"At first you could get so close to them, they weren't afraid of people because everyone just doesn't bother them," Bonncent explained. "I would be able to walk right up and catch them, sometimes the other [rabbits] wouldn't even notice."

But as time went on Bonncent says that the rabbits became trickier to catch.

"A couple of months in they knew who I was," he said. "They would hop away pretty fast and I had to find a new way to get them."

U of C biology instructor Robert Jandins says this is a natural reaction for a group of animals that have traditionally had no predators.

"Animals aren't stupid," Jandins said. "They'll adapt and change based on the circumstances. This population of rabbits on campus grew to eventually not see humans as a threat to their survival and ignored us. They didn't have to worry about anything wanting to eat them and so they multiplied and multiplied exponentially. But now Tristan wants to eat them and things have changed."

Bonncent attributes his quick reaction with a spear and net to his success as a "rabbit hunter." The student estimates he's eaten more than 40 rabbits so far and saved over $500 in grocery expenses.

"It's great," Bonncent admits. "Some people are a little worried about the taste, but a few minutes in the MacHall microwaves and it's the best."

Campus wildlife director Mandel Reguly welcomes Bonncent's ingenuity and hopes other students will follow suit.

"These things were horrible to deal with before," Reguly said. "Before [Bonncent] it was a pain having the team focus on this. He's taken a lot off of our plate and literally put it on to his own. It lets us do our jobs more effectively. I think that students . . . need to all do their part."

With the winter semester almost over and warmer weather on the way Bonncent looks forward to the remaining rabbits breeding and replenishing their numbers.

"It's been a bit slim lately," Bonncent said, absently chewing on a long, floppy ear. "I hope the numbers go back up, I don't want to have start paying for food. I need that money for beer."