Is habitat management an effective tool for wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) population reinforcement?
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- Catalán, I., Rodríguez-Hidalgo, P. & Tortosa, F.S. Eur J Wildl Res (2008) 54: 449. doi:10.1007/s10344-007-0169-0
Wild rabbit scarcity in Spain is a serious problem due to its economic and ecological value; thus, management techniques to reinforce their populations are being implemented. Translocations are traditionally applied but high short-term mortality by predation makes them unsuccessful and increases their biological cost. An alternative to translocation would be to strengthen local reduced populations through habitat management (building artificial warrens and increasing food availability). Here, we test this method to determine its efficiency as an exportable protocol to recover wild rabbit populations. We compare two areas with and without artificial warrens and increased food availability and assess relative rabbit abundance by means of pellet counts. Results show that, during the 2 years following habitat management, rabbit numbers increased in the experimental plot in contrast to the not managed one, suggesting its effectiveness to reinforce low-density rabbit populations.