, Volume 56, Issue 6, pp 829-837
Date: 22 Apr 2010

Provision of artificial warrens as a means to enhance native wild rabbit populations: what type of warren and where should they be sited?

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Abstract

In Spain, wild rabbits are essential for some highly endangered species, and, therefore, many actions have been undertaken to increase their populations. In the present study, artificial warrens are provided as a means to increase shelter for native wild rabbit populations in a given area. We evaluate the use of three types of warrens by rabbits and the effect on that use of five habitat characteristics at two spatial scales (500 × 500-m grids and 25-m plots). To evaluate that use, we identified pre-established signs at the entrances to each warren, and based on this, we calculated occupancy rate and activity. Our results indicate that rabbit abundance within a grid is the only variable which simultaneously explains both the greater occupancy and the higher activity in the artificial warrens located in that grid. Some 73.2% of the grids showed signs of rabbit use at the time of the evaluation. However, the pre-existing rabbit populations within the grids were not quantified and, hence, we cannot state that the warrens contributed to an increase in the rabbit abundance. Regarding the habitat, our results reveal that warrens should be situated in grids with food coverage of less than 50%, while the use of each individual refuge is greater where food availability in the immediate surroundings is at least 20% and shelter at least 50%. The tube warrens showed significantly greater rabbit use than the other types while there was little difference between the stone and pallet warrens in terms of use.

Communicated by W. Lutz