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badsworth

Where have all the bunnies gone!

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Has anyone else noticed a decline in the number of rabbits?

 

I live near Bridport on the South Coast, and the number of rabbits around here has fallen by well over 50% in the last 3/4 years. Fields where I used to see 2 or 3 dozen rabbits, now have only 2 or 3. I know there are obviously loads that you don't see but the difference is stark.

 

If I went out for an evening's rabbiting I would be confident of bringing home 5 or 6 (my record for a day is 53) - now I sometimes have to work hard to get even one.

 

The answer is not just mixy - it breaks out from time to time, but the rabbits are much more resistant to it now and many recover. Yes the number of birds of prey and badgers are factors (this area is crawling with badgers), but only a part of the reason. The number of foxes is about the same as 11 years ago when I moved here.

 

I understand that there are a number of new diseases which effect rabbits and which are the primary cause. Does anyone know anything about them?

 

I don't suppose the farmers will mourn their loss but to see such a massive change in the population in such a short time is quite disconcerting.

 

Badsworth

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You are right that although still deadly, mixy no longer is the curse it once was and rabbits have to a degree become resilient, rabbit viral hemorrhagic disease or RVHD is a more lethal infection these days.

 

http://www.snh.org.uk/publications/on-line/advisorynotes/31/31.htm

 

Rabbit populations certainly vary quite wildly depending on disease outbreaks and the length and severely of our winters. Here in Northumberland the rabbit population I control has increased significantly this year but we have had a very mild winter. As such I went out last weekend and felt the need to shoot anything from the very small upwards. Usually during the summer I will snipe a few at longer ranges over burrows etc but the farm manager has asked for a big clear out ahead of the lamping season which is a bit sad as the resale option for the small ones isn't there albeit they will still get used in the middens and bait points.

 

Ive spent a lot of money on C/F rifles in the last few years but a few hours out with the .22 still takes some beating :)

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hi,have you had an increase in black rabbit sightings? if so you local branch of <animal health scientist .>may have been out and about they cover this area every 3 years they release black rabbits that are injected with RVHD to control the local population .our wonderfull government will deny this but it originates from the institute for animal health at Compton berks and purbright reading berks .don't eat the black rabbits I am told its safe for humans but I don't know.

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Here on the Moray Coast, rabbits have become quite a rarity, yet 25 milesaway in Nairnshire there are plenty. A couple of decades ago fields aruond here used to heave with bunnies, it can't just be Mixy surely.

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Move to Norfolk, there are plenty of Rabbit here.

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Rabbit populations are "noisy", the ones I shoot have fluctuated pretty wildly in the last 10 years. In 2010 there were so many I was shooting everything from tiddlers up, and they were doing a lot of damage. This year I've seen so few I've completely left them alone so far.


I've tried to understand the reasons for it, but pretty much drawn a blank, myxomatosis plays a part, but it was there in the good years too.


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Move to Norfolk, there are plenty of Rabbit here.

Same in Lincolnshire, muntjac too.

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Mild weather really makes a difference, if the breeding season is longer there will be more rabbits.

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We have a lot in North Yorkshire this year.

 

Do we?

Certainly not the quantity I have seen in the past, same for me as the OP

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Do we?

Certainly not the quantity I have seen in the past, same for me as the OP

Up on the edge of the moors where I shoot, 100 in a couple of hours with the rimfire is no problem.

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My corner of Kent is well down and the black rabit post rings true were there's been black rabits those borrows have dropped massively. One of my favrite bits to shoot with a centre fire hasn't given me one shot this year. I shot a black rabit from that barow last spring.

If this is happening it needs stopping. Perhaps Mr May whose so fond of badgers should get up of his pompous back side and do something. Even BASC could get involved.

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Shropshire and West Midlands very low count on our shoots over the past three years but just starting to show signs of an increase . Not jus t on the shoots very noticeable when travelling , the regular verge areas where we always used to see rabbits and a low road kill count and yet brocks and pheasants roadkill quite high . Certainly on Shropshire shoot very little active rabbits till after dark , must be some there tho cus we have had red kites move in as well as the usual buzzard traffic .

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...you local branch of <animal health scientist .>may have been out and about they cover this area every 3 years they release black rabbits that are injected with RVHD to control the local population .our wonderfull government will deny this....

 

I'd like to see authoritative evidence for this theory, and I don't mean "Geoff down the pub says..." ;)

 

Black, or "melanistic" animals are not uncommon. Around here (Cambs.) I see many black squirrels.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melanism

 

maximus otter

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good morning,reference the release of infected black rabbits ,my ground criss crosses the ridge way and I stopped a green pick up about 38 years ago and questioned the two occopants activity and was shown four crates of black rabbits and paper work showing the rabbits were being released as an experiment on rabbit control ,the information was to protect the diversity of plant life along the ridge way path by keeping rabbit numbers at bay.when the institute of animal heath at Compton was contacted I was informed that they had a responsibility to monitor and protect local wild life from any infection/disease,these rabbits were still being released up until 2012 when the institute for animal health was <officialy closed down> there are still many workers and scientists on site and the now white pick ups still appear from time to time maximus otter perhaps some information from Huntington live science or what ever they are called down your way Cambridge may prove usefull ,good luck with that,i expect you will be told they no longer exist ,good luck which ever road you take out of interest since you see a lot of black squirrels around has the grey population declined ? my first thoughts were approx. 25years ago but have check through the season log find I was out by 13years so I have edited the date to show it was 38 years ago ,time goes too quickly these days

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I'm not far from the Ridgeway and we had three black rabbits here when I started. One was here for two years though before succumbing to Myxi. I was quite sad when I found him lol!

We have very few this year.

 

Andy

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...the release of infected black rabbits...

 

Obviously I can't argue with your recollections, but I find it a challenge to believe that this Compton institute would be running what you imply is a secret project, yet:

 

1. Do their work where they can be seen by members of the public like you.

 

2. When spoken to, admit everything and show you their materials and paperwork.

 

3. Deliberately use rabbits of an unusual and memorable colouring for their "classified" experiment.

 

Conventionally-coloured grey squirrels seem to be neither more nor less common than average around here.

 

maximus otter

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good morning,fair comment and I will just add that 38 years ago we had no email ,internet or mobile phones.what happened locally stayed locally,but at that time local estates had a good relation ship with irad<institute for animal deases> and knew many of the people employed there.things move on,the irad changed its name to institute for animal health and security became a big issue and all went quiet but the pick ups still appeared every three years and the black rabbits arrived again so make of it as you will.these are my personal findings and memories, :ph34r: just a note for maximus number 1,the men initially claimed to be ferritting,2 I knew the men and where they worked,3 I was informed that black rabbits were used as can be seen at greater distances through binos etc

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One of my bits I thought I cleared all the black ones, but no they've made a come back, still plenty of rabbits about.

 

Five years ago I had some that looked like angora cross, now they looked really weird as they looked like it had a shroud around it as they had fine long hairs as well as the normal coat

 

I did think we were having a bad year early on, but they've come back big time as usual now.

 

ATB

 

6.5

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good morning,fair comment and I will just add that 38 years ago we had no email ,internet or mobile phones.what happened locally stayed locally,but at that time local estates had a good relation ship with irad<institute for animal deases> and knew many of the people employed there.things move on,the irad changed its name to institute for animal health and security became a big issue and all went quiet but the pick ups still appeared every three years and the black rabbits arrived again so make of it as you will.these are my personal findings and memories, :ph34r: just a note for maximus number 1,the men initially claimed to be ferritting,2 I knew the men and where they worked,3 I was informed that black rabbits were used as can be seen at greater distances through binos etc

 

I know not what was really going on,but if the black rabbits were disease carrying plants in some 'experiment',you'd need to be able to identify they were still around and presumably still 'infectious' ,so need to be easily identified-if no blacks remain /survive,and population does not change noticeably,it's inconclusive at best. Seen thus,the blacks are not an error of proceedure...but there are some other ifs/buts/maybes in the detail.perhaps.As usual,the plot unwinds slowly.....

gbal

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One point to rember, its illegal to pick up a Mixey rabit and move it to another area to infect the rabits there. At least that's the case if your a farmer.

Then there's the hole Foot and Mouth thing.The last out break happened near the government labortry, and the other one had a gagging order! People I know sear blind that timber yards had orders for sleepers from DERA before the out break, and other farmers who traveled to Australia were told of the out break as they were disinfected coming off the plane pre out break.

Will the truthe come out? I don't think so I my life time.

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I went out last week with my NV gear and covered about 200 acres. I would once have expected to see 100-200 rabbits in the course of a night. Instead I saw 5! That was 5 single rabbits in 5 different locations.

 

I have noted some of the slightly sceptical comments about the Govt. deliberately releasing infected rabbits, and must admit that I was also not inclined to believe them - but see this clip on Youtube

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEmNzAIELK8

 

You will see that in Australia the government are quite open about releasing it. Perhaps the government here are a bit more reluctant because they know that the 'bunny huggers' would be out in their thousands, probably led by Brian May!

 

In AUS they call RVHD 'Calicivirus', which is a bit easier to remember. The disease is very quick acting, and over 90% fatal, death following usually in 1 to 3 days. The few rabbits that recover go on to act as carriers spreading the disease even further. Because death follows so quickly most of the carcasses are underground and unseen lying within the burrows. The carcasses which are aboveground still seem to be eaten by foxes, badgers and other predators who then go on to spread the disease further with their faeces.

 

The disease is thought to have spread to the wild rabbit population from contact with pet rabbits and not the other way around. Angorra rabbits are thought by some to have been the originators of the first outbreak.

 

The symptoms of the disease are hard to spot, and because death follows so quickly the disease has proved to be devastating even for pet rabbits - most affected bunnies go from being the lethargic and off-colour to being dead very quickly.

 

Fortunately the disease only affects rabbits, and death occurs as a result of haemorrhaging - usually internally but sometimes externally as well.

 

I think this is a situation worth keeping an eye on.

 

Badsworth

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