Sustainability of Rabbit populations

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Dave

Hill Dweller
Sep 17, 2003
6,019
8
Brigantia
Was watching hugh furry whippingspool in country cottage yesterday, and they were lamping rabbits. Apparently before chicken became popular, just going back a few generations, rabbit was the staple. They would shoot hundreds and put them on the train for london.

He did most of his shooting around autumn time. Teenage rabbits, and one of the old hands was basically implying, that because of the rate of breeding, the population stayed constant. He reckoned there were 400-500, even if you were shooting 300-400 per year.

So in theory if you had land with a load of rabbits, youve got a constant source of meat.

Anyone care to comment on that? If true it seemed like a good way to live a self sustaining lifestyle in our overcrowded country.

What size of area would accomodate that many rabbits? If for instance, you were wanting to buy land, and encourage the rabbit population, could you just buy a cheap patch of moorland do ya reckon?
 
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SCOMAN

Full Member
Dec 31, 2005
2,083
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50
Perthshire
I think they used to have managed rabbit warrens specifically for that reason but the practice was stopped. The Watership down book made mention of them. Dartmoor has many of them scattered around the south of the moor. I do remember one of the facts that came out in QI was that you could not survive if all you ate was rabbit meat. I guess it's too lean to hold many nutrients.
 

Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,296
1,391
McBride, BC
I'm sure that you can find some local graduate ecology research that might shed some light.
1. What's the population size now? = n
2. What's the Biotic Potential for rabbits? r = 6?
3. What's the mortality from predation, disease and age?

Otherwise, harvest a fixed number, keep track of that and watch. Unlikely that you can cause a crash.
You don't have the variety of predators that we do. Must be factors otherwise that keep them from jumping out your ears!

It's entirely likely, like studies from Scotland, that our Ruffed grouse populations are controlled more by levels of parasitism than anything else at all.
Most ecologists admit that grouse hunters have no effect at all on population dymnamics. That we have limits mostly for the sake of ettiquette.
10 Franklin, 10 Ruffed & 10 Dusky, per day. Possibly 60 in the freezer.
Years when we could shoot our limits and tomorrow, the same numbers would be available = just crazy.
 

Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,296
1,391
McBride, BC
Epidemic is the common fate, sooner or later, for just about any crowded population.
Sustained yield to hold well below that threshold is about the best case.

It's been thought that for decades, sustained yield from hunting kept our regional moose population in good shape.
As of now, the population has crashed to hunting closures in some districts.
Nobody has the foggiest idea about the cause(s).
 

Dave

Hill Dweller
Sep 17, 2003
6,019
8
Brigantia
I keep having to call you robson valley, which is not your name but where you live! Feels odd! but thankyou for that information. very helpful.
 

Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,296
1,391
McBride, BC
That's OK, Dave. I did it (RV) to promote the district that I, Dr. Brian W. Thair, live in.
Never been accused of doing too many smart things but retiring a decade ago and getting away (2+hrs) from the city was a good one.
Good houses are inexpensive, lots on the market and except for the monthly crap, I am debt free.
Can't whine too much about the snow-capped mountain scenery and wilderness opportunities, either

These's an old Biology board game called "Extinction." If you ever find one which is complete (4 color sets of 20 dice each, board & card sets & spinner), buy it.
Depending on what you draw for Biotic Potential, you can watch your population teeter on the brink of extinction and one single
epidemic will wipe you off the continent of Darwinia forever. The game name is no threat, it's a prediction.
 

Dave

Hill Dweller
Sep 17, 2003
6,019
8
Brigantia
Well, I guess Im gonna call you doc from now on friend. I'd love to live over there, maybe, one day, god willing.

[Having visited golden, not far from you, kicking horse falls etc in winter, back in 1999, i know how beautiful it is]
 

Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,296
1,391
McBride, BC
The "Doc" thing. Fine, but nobody seems to care what we all did when we worked.
I used to work and now I don't. When people find out, my usual response is "yah, I did that."
Now I grow grapes and do wood carving and shoot as many ruffed grouse as possible.

Actually, Golden was a really hot #2 on my list of potential retirement sites.
That should give you a good idea, even without Google, what this place looks like.
The "people" reasons won out.

Not much ever for rabbits here = little "bush-bunnies." See one explode out of the brush maybe
one grouse hunting trip in ten. Even with a .22cal, I can't see getting any sort of an accurate shot away.
Kind of neat to see them changing color for winter. All blotchy/splotchy right now.
Cannot comment on what the population might be. I'd just as soon leave them for the big cats.
 
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Jaeger

Full Member
Dec 3, 2014
670
17
United Kingdom
Aye Up Robson,

Have I got your post correct - that the moose population has crashed since hunting restriction? (I think the word due might be missing?).

I wonder if that could be due to over-population and subsequently less food to go around?

My Austrian relatives once took me to the hunting section of a museum in their city and one of my Onkels, a life long huntsman, explained that if it weren't for (controlled hunting) the wildlife population would over-breed and if that coincided with a poor growth year of their main food source would result in many starving, not to mention the abnormalities of over in-breeding of which there were several quite disturbing preserved examples on show.
 

HillBill

Bushcrafter through and through
Oct 1, 2008
8,113
57
W. Yorkshire
The problem we have with rabbits, is a disease called myxomatosis. It has nothing to do with population density... it just appears all over the place, all the time and wipes them out. Horrible thing it is.

Epidemic is the common fate, sooner or later, for just about any crowded population.
Sustained yield to hold well below that threshold is about the best case.

It's been thought that for decades, sustained yield from hunting kept our regional moose population in good shape.
As of now, the population has crashed to hunting closures in some districts.
Nobody has the foggiest idea about the cause(s).
 

Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,296
1,391
McBride, BC
Interesting puzzles, the studies of disease epidemics.
They appear to overwhelm populations of any size,
perhaps some influence from a genetic vulnerability?

Was myxomytosis taken from the UK for rabbit control in Australia?
From what I saw of warrens over the 4 years I lived there, it was none too successful.
 

Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,296
1,391
McBride, BC
No. The moose population, in our North East Peace River district as an example.
Population estimates were so shockingly low that moose hunting was closed.

In Region 7, moose populations are managed for biological, not political, reasons.
The harvest is micro managed with Limited Entry Hunting in all age and sex class demographics.
The peak of the rut is known to within 48 hours.
No doubt at all that it has worked very well as reproductive success depends largely on the activity
of bulls in the post-teen mature age classes = the true "breeders."
 
Dec 6, 2013
417
0
N.E.Lincs.
RV, it actually happened the other way around (or so it is thought in some quarters) the Myxomatosis first 'appeared' in Lab animals in Chile or Uruguay and was introduced to Australia...it then found it's way a few years later to the UK where it was encouraged as a control...At one time most of the surviving Rabbits in the UK seemed to be either genetically beating Myxy or gaining immunity through exposure. In recent years it seemed to have struck again in many areas. Personally I think a lot the fresh outbreaks are because many of the populations have become quite isolated because of the lack of corridors between breeding groups, massive areas of Winter Wheat and Rape seems to mean (not always but in a lot of cases) that the colonies become quite isolated so genetically they don't seem to get chance to breed immunity and longish periods without contact to the disease means when it hits it hits hard.

D.B.
 

Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
8,296
1,391
McBride, BC
Thanks, DB. Fills in a major gap in my understanding.

Local rabbits here are quite good (pass the plum sauce, if you please) but I've not made
any effort for decades to go after them as I once did, 12ga x #4 shot. Really nothing to them but the hind quarters.

When you examined the old furtrading records of the Hudson's Bay Company, you will see a lead and lag
that's typical of many Predator Prey interactions:
First the local prey (rabbit) population shows considerable growth. Presented with an abundance of prey,
the local cat populations (Lynx & Bobcat) get busy with the breeding and good supplies for feeding so their populations grow.
The thinking of the day was that the cats made such a dent in the rabbit population that it eventually depressed their own reproductive success.

Apparently, not quite so.
From the tundra down as far south as into the United States, rabbit browsing stimulates the plants to produce a distasteful aversion substance
but also a compound known to depress the birth rate in the rabbit population!
So it isn't predator control of the prey population. The Cats get stuck with whatever is available.
 

Fraxinus

Settler
Oct 26, 2008
931
29
Canterbury
, 12ga x #4 shot. Really nothing to them but the hind quarters.
A lot of rabbit over here is head shot with .177 or .22 air rifles.
The upside is that the quiet retort leaves others munching away while you target the next one. Downside is you have to be accurate with a sub 12ft/lb rifle.
Bonus is that you get to eat the whole rabbit without chowing down on shot.
Had the last one out of the freezer on Saturday so went out this morning and found none. plenty of sign and part chewed windfall pears (not very good eating ones) so maybe they all had belly ache!

Rob.
 

mick91

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
May 13, 2015
2,064
1
Sunderland
Or little 2" loads out of a .410 work canny too! Right what's being said though mixy decimated rabbit populations. Its amazing how many will live in a small area though so from a sustainability standpoint I guess they would be an option.
 

HillBill

Bushcrafter through and through
Oct 1, 2008
8,113
57
W. Yorkshire
Lamping/NV is the best this time of year....... they don't know we just put the clocks back, lol :)


A lot of rabbit over here is head shot with .177 or .22 air rifles.
The upside is that the quiet retort leaves others munching away while you target the next one. Downside is you have to be accurate with a sub 12ft/lb rifle.
Bonus is that you get to eat the whole rabbit without chowing down on shot.
Had the last one out of the freezer on Saturday so went out this morning and found none. plenty of sign and part chewed windfall pears (not very good eating ones) so maybe they all had belly ache!

Rob.
 

Jakata

Full Member
Dec 16, 2009
87
0
41
Northampton
The old manor house in the village had a warren, fairly near to the ornamental lake and a quick walk from the rear of the manor house. The manor house is long gone now but the warren is still there and the population is managed by cats for the most part. Mine has one most days in the summer.

There are other wild warrens all over the place, I don't really know a lot about rabbits, except they breed like rabbits... Not sure about one every day, especially if you are only taking adults, not sure if you would kill off the adults faster than they breed.