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.
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 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 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!! 😉