Rabbits were introduced to British shores by the Normans some time during the 12th century; they provided a good supply of healthy fresh meat and really good quality fur used to keep people warm during the harsh winters. Initially introduced to large country estates and kept behind tightly packed stone walls these animals soon made the environment their own and began breeding at a prolific rate. These areas would be harvested regularly and the meat and fur sold generating a good income for the estate. However as these walls fell into a state of disrepair the rabbits soon began escaping, rapidly breeding and becoming a significant agricultural pest.
In 1953 Myxomatosis, a viral disease affecting rabbits broke out in the UK. This disease outbreak decimated the UK rabbit population. This disease is still prevalent today albeit a slightly different strain. The effects of this viral disease are truly horrible causing a slow painful death. There does appear to be some immunity to this disease though with some animals recovering from it. Deliberate transmission of this disease is a criminal offence.
In 1992 a new threat to the rabbit population was reported in the UK. Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease; this disease is capable of killing a rabbit within 24 hours of contracting it by causing multi organ failure normally resulting in the animal suffering with extreme pain. There appears to be no immunity from this disease in older rabbits however rabbits of less than 8 weeks of age don’t appear to be affected by it.
Rabbits in large numbers can certainly be a menace to a variety of properties. The tunnel networks that they create for breeding and shelter cause many potential hazards. The scrapings that they create in sports fields pose a risk of injury to people using these areas, and of course there is the grazing damage they cause to agricultural crops. Seven rabbits will graze as much as one sheep in a 24 hour period; given the prolific rate with which these animals breed and grow it doesn’t take them long to decimate a field of corn.
There are many ways of controlling rabbits; some of the most effective ways include the use of ferrets, snares, cage traps and shooting. Gassing these animals with aluminium phosphide can also be extremely effective however this renders the meat useless for human consumption.
As a rural pest control specialist in Herefordshire I have many years of experience in controlling these animals with my preferred methods been the use of ferrets and the use of a rifle at night fitted with a night vision rifle scope. Some circumstances don’t allow these techniques to be used so the deployment of snares fitted with stops to avoid catching non target species and the use of live catch cage traps can be extremely effective, however these techniques are more costly as they are far more labour intensive.
Other options of reducing rabbit damage include rabbit proof fencing, although this is very expensive to install it is very effective. However if fencing alone is erected rabbits will, given time, dig under it, chew through it and/or climb over it to get to their feeding grounds. This can be avoided by installing drop box traps in the fence line which will give the rabbits access to their chosen feeding ground via a run. When the rabbit population increases to a level where control is necessary simply running the traps for a week will reduce numbers significantly, as it is possible to catch between 1-50 rabbits per setting. If rabbit fencing is something you are considering, please call us as we can supply and fit these traps and arrange a contract to run them as and when they are needed.