#350 Where are all the rabbits these days?

Something that I have noticed recently is that rabbit numbers seem to be dropping.  By recently, I mean in the last couple of years or so.

Of course, I have fond memories of childhood days when friends and I would go out ‘nature spotting’ as we called it. One of the common survey methods we used (not that we knew we were surveying – we just enjoyed counting them!) was to creep up to the gate in a field, then peer through along the hedgeline to count how many rabbits were out grazing.  I know there were loads!

In recent years though, numbers seem to have dropped considerably to me.  Sure they are around – and a half hour walk this lunchtime revealed a total of 7 on the edge of the heath. Two years ago though, I’m sure I could have expected to be well into the 30’s or so in that same area.

The first rabbit to show today, crossing the path ahead of me.

The first rabbit to show today, crossing the path ahead of me.

I’m not sure why numbers should be dropping away. Yes, there has been a bit of myxamatosis around but not so much that I had seen lots of animals suffering from it.

One of three that were grazing in the open a bit further along the track.

One of three that were grazing in the open a bit further along the track.

One possibility is that they have been hunted. We do occasionally get poachers, and I recall having to deal with a group of lads last year that had turned up with ferrets and dogs.   There also appears to be an increase in predator numbers. Polecat roadkill are now a regular sight in the area, indicating a good sized  population.

The last one for today.  Just before it headed off into the brambles.

The last one for today. Just before it headed off into the brambles.

The other possible explanation is that numbers are not dropping away at all – and it’s just a combination of rose tinted glasses imagining lots of rabbits everywhere, and poor fieldmanship on my part!  Not that I would ever accept that I have lost my highly tuned fieldcraft skills of course!! 😉

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