Rabbits & Rabbit Control
The European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) belongs to the order of Lagomorphs and are not rodents. They originate from the Iberian Peninsula and North-West Africa. Rabbits were introduced by the Normans and are now widespread after escaping on a continual basis during Victorian times. They kept rabbits in semi-commercial enclosed warrens for food and fur. A mature rabbit can be up to 40cm long and can weigh up to 2 kg and require about half a kg of green food a day.
They prefer agricultural pastures with harbourage sites nearby. Rabbit numbers are increasing again, as some resistance to the disease myxomatosis is apparent. This disease was introduced in 1953 to control rabbit infestations. The main reason for control is for damage caused by them to farm crops, gardens, woodland saplings and and bark stripping of trees. In addition rabbit warrens present a danger to livestock and can undermine the root structures of woodland trees.
Under Section 1 of the Pests Act 1954 most of England has been declared a rabbit clearance area. Occupiers of land in a such an area have a continuing obligation to control rabbits living on, or resorting to, their land. This legislation is still relevant today. Rabbits may raise 5 litters per year and a single pair, along with the offspring can exceed to produce over 100 rabbits in a year!
Rabbit management methods
Rabbits can withstand a high mortality from both natural causes and pest control. In a rural context, even with an effective catch rate, a rabbit-free environment is almost impossible. Re-population will eventually occur from nearby fields. The complete eradication of smaller isolated pockets is achievable. However in case of larger numbers, the objective is to employ methods to reduce numbers and manage existing populations. This will insure that damage is economically acceptable.
The most effective time for control is from October to March because:
- Levels have been reduced naturally, by predation and disease.
- Catching mature animals means a reduction of the breeding population.
- Vegetation is reduced and the access to burrows is easier for rabbit control.
Depending on the environment and the population level we can use a number of rabbit control methods. These including trapping (cage trapping, drop box trapping, Fenn 6 trapping and an array of approved alternatives), shooting, ferreting / longnetting and gassing as means of an effective control regime. I am qualified in the safe use of Aluminium Phosphide. However the use of Aluminium phosphide (gassing) for vertebrate pests is tightly regulated in light of health and safety and can only used be used when specific requirements are met. Gassing of larger sites typically requires a 7-10 days notice before work can commence, as a site survey is imperative and shipment of Talunex (once requirements are ok) for that particular job takes 48 hrs.
Clients who have used us for rabbit managment include farmers, landowners, golf courses, network rail and industrial estates. – references available upon request.