Update, June 23: YVR announced Wednesday that it has suspended its rabbit culling program after "hearing from the community on different options." More information can be found here. The original story follows.

RICHMOND, B.C. -- For the past few weeks, a man with an active firearm has been shooting rabbits located near the hotel at Vancouver International Airport in the middle of the night.

CTV News Vancouver has learned a contractor was hired to do the culling, and more rabbits are scheduled to be shot on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

Notices have been sent out advising staff of the work.

But airport employees told CTV News they did not know the culling was already taking place, until a worker arrived for a night shift and was frightened when she saw a man in the parking lot with a rifle.

“It is a public relations nightmare, and it’s cruel,” said Sorelle Saidman, founder of the Rabbitats Rescue Society. “These rabbits are very friendly. They don’t know to run from people, they would probably run towards the person with the gun, and to end their lives that way for no reason is disgusting.”

Sorelle’s organization urged YVR to relocate the rabbits in November 2019, before the population got out control. Back then there were about 50 bunnies grazing on the airport lawn, but of course they kept multiplying.

This year, she said her team offered to help once more, but was turned-down again.

“Certainly there’s all kinds of non-lethal solutions,” said Lesley Fox of the advocacy group The Fur-Bearers.

“I think we need reassurance from YVR that we have exhausted all non-lethal options.”

Airport officials denied CTV News’ request for an interview and instead provided a statement. It emphasized that safety was a top priority.

“We’re committed to ensuring safe aircraft operations and work hard to mitigate potential wildlife interactions,” the statement read. “Our current approach follows best practices and has been endorsed by representatives from the Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resource Operations.”

Other international airports have reported hares taking over runways and getting tangled in equipment. They can also attract birds and coyotes, which can be dangerous to aircraft.