Despite the rabbits cute reputation as a much loved cartoon character in the form of bugs bunny or peter rabbit, they are also a major pest species in the UK. This mammal is largely underestimated by most but their capabilities to breed as well as, chew, eat and dig through most landscapes is second to none.
For those whose property falls victim to the destruction caused by rabbits it poses problems in a variety of ways depending on the land use. The problems will only multiply if the rabbit population is left unregulated.
7 rabbits will eat as much as a sheep. With this in mind it doesn’t take much to understand how even a small population of rabbits can decimate a colossal amount of crop. It is estimated that rabbits cost the British agricultural industry £100million a year through crop damage. Without doubt they are the number one pest species for farmers.
Burrowing rabbits also pose a threat to livestock and horses alike. Animals breaking legs in rabbit holes is not uncommon. Depending on the value of such livestock and the likely cost of vet fees to successfully repair the injury it is often the case that the animal is put to sleep.
Rabbits play havoc in such places and cause hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage to such industries each year. Ring barking (gnawing the whole way round the base of the tree) is the most common problem. If such a tree has its lower bark completely removed by rabbits - which is common in colder weather conditions the tree will die. If the rabbits only chew part of the way round the trunk, the tree will be able to retain a certain amount of nutrition however this often means disease and fungi can take hold.
The targeted trees also become weak and unstable. This problem obviously poses the threat of collapsing trees and potential accidents as well as the loss of earnings from trees dying. This can also have a negative effect on habitat management.
Tree guards can help to a degree but rabbits often chew through them in times of hardship. Rabbits are also capable of reaching heights of 50cm plus when stretched out on hind legs and capable of climbing if there is low foliage around. When rabbits attack fruit trees, the next harvest will be a ‘bumper’ crop as it is natures’ way of carrying on by producing extra seeds. This however is short-lived as the trees invariably die.
Rabbits cause all sorts of problems in gardens. They love eating plants and flowers (normally ones of value), so cause great annoyance to those who like to keep their garden aesthetically pleasing. Such targeted plants need to be replaced once rabbits have relied upon them as a food sources. Their droppings and urine also taint and burn lawns meaning they often look unkempt where rabbits frequently graze.
They also dig scrapes in search of young shoots, in time this can often mean lawn replacement is needed, at great expense to the owner. As in forestry, ornamental garden trees will also be attacked again causing considerable expense for replacements.
Their burrows also provide the risk of injury to humans and pets alike. Burrows often increase in size annually, if the rabbit numbers are not controlled, meaning a garden could soon resemble a war zone.
Rabbits are resourceful creatures and often take up residence in places other than in holes such as under decking, garden sheds and even houses. This could potentially cause issues such as subsidence and the risk of fire if they chew through electrical wires. Wild rabbits can also pass on diseases to unvaccinated pet rabbits, which could result in the loss of the pet.
Railways / Motorways
Such areas normally consist of steep embankments covered in varying amounts of vegetation. This provides an ideal & potentially safe environment for rabbits, providing them with food, shelter & little predation. These areas often contain a high population or rabbits which then feed on adjacent land causing thousands of pounds worth of damage to crops etc.
Trees and plantations on embankments regularly become targeted & once ring barked by rabbits they die & can become unstable, the burrows they dig can also cause subsidence both of which- if unnoticed can cause serious accidents. In these areas rabbits need to be controlled for Health & Safety reasons.
Sports Grounds and Public areas
These are often favoured habitats for rabbits in both urban & rural areas. The most likely reason for the need for rabbits to be controlled in such places is mainly due to digging. As rabbits continue to dig scrapes & burrows this heightens the chance of a member of the public falling & injuring themselves- which could potentially result in a lawsuit against the landowners or managers.
Cricket squares prove irresistible and overnight can become unplayable. Rabbits can also cause damage to sports equipment such as football and cricket nets as well as posing a fire risk if they take up residence under buildings in the vicinity – through chewing wires.
In such areas rabbits can be very much a Health & Safety issue.
Such areas are often busy places of work that need to run efficiently. Rabbits are resourceful creatures & thrive in both rural & urban areas.
Rabbits tunnelling under path/roadways, hard surfaces & buildings can cause weakness & damage to the structures in the form of erosion & subsidence. Burrows & scratching caused by rabbits digging also pose the treat of people injuring themselves through falls.
Rabbits that find their way into artificial burrows such as wire ducts, wall cavities or drainage pipes can cause fires & flooding through chewing & digging. In severe cases this can cause hundreds of thousands of pounds in property damage & loss off earnings & is very much a health & safety issue.