Rabbits have a burrow system known as a warren, and tunnels can be 1-2m long. The nest at the end of the tunnel is lined with grass, moss and belly fur. They use regular trails, which they scent mark with faecal pellets. They damage crops and grassland by digging shallow holes to get at roots as well as eating the grass/crops. They will also destroy many garden plants and small trees.
Mating occurs throughout the year with most litters born between February and August. Litters range in size between 3 and 12, after a gestation period of 28-33 days, and the kittens are weaned after 28 days. Due to this rapid breeding potential rabbit populations can withstand high mortality from natural causes, so control efforts by man must add to these, not merely replace them, if direct control is to be effective. Because of the size of the effort required, and the rabbit’s inherent capacity for population increase, complete eradication is impractical. Instead, the aim should be to reduce rabbit numbers to levels at which damage is economically acceptable.
Rabbits do not respect boundaries and the most effective results will be achieved if management action is undertaken on adjoining land at the same time in a co-operative exercise. Fencing areas and then eliminating the population in the fenced areas can be undertaken. But control may take some time.
Rabbit populations are increasing, as they are becoming immune to the myxomatosis virus.Rabbits become sexually mature after just four months and breed rapidly, so they can readily replace themselves. The introduction of the disease myxamatosis into the rabbit population in the 1950’s put a temporary reduction on the rabbit population. However, in the past 20 years or so, widespread resistance to the disease has resulted in greater numbers being seen across the country – in many places back up to 1950’s levels. As previously mentioned rabbits are vermin and landowners have a legal obligation to control them.
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