European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 54, Issue 3, pp 449–453 | Cite as

Is habitat management an effective tool for wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) population reinforcement?

  • I. Catalán
  • P. Rodríguez-Hidalgo
  • F. S. Tortosa
Original Paper


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.


Rabbit abundance Southern Spain Management 


  1. Angulo E (2003) Factores que afectan a la distribución y abundancia del conejo en Andalucía. PhD Universidad Complutense de Madrid, MadridGoogle Scholar
  2. Beltran JF (1991) Temporal abundance pattern of the wild rabbit in Doñana, SW Spain. Mammalia 55:591–599Google Scholar
  3. Blanco R (2005) Parque Natural de la Sierra de Hornachuelos. Memoria anual de Actividades y Resultados 2005Google Scholar
  4. Branco M, Ferrand N, Monnerot M (2000) Phylogeography of the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in the Iberian Peninsula inferred from RFLP analysis of the cytochrome b gene. Heredity 85:307–317PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Branco M, Monnerot M, Ferrand N, Templeton AR (2002) Postglacial dispersal of the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) on the Iberian Peninsula reconstructed from nested clade and mismatch analyses of mitochondrial DNA genetic variation. Evolution 56:792–803PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Cabezas S, Moreno S (2007) An experimental study of translocation success and habitat improvement in wild rabbits. Anim Conserv 10:340–348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Calvete C (2006) The use of immunization programs in wild populations: modelling effectiveness of vaccination campaigns against rabbit haemorrhagic disease. Biol Conserv 130:290–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Calvete C, Estrada R (2004) Short-term survival and dispersal of translocated European wild rabbits. Improving the release protocol. Biol Conserv 120:507–516CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Calvete C, Villafuerte R, Lucientes J, Osácar JJ (1997) Effectiveness of traditional wild rabbit restocking in Spain. J Zool 241:271–277CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Calvete C, Estrada R, Angulo E, Cabezas-Ruiz S (2004a) Habitat factors related to wild rabbit conservation in an agricultural landscape. Landsc Ecol 19:531–542CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Calvete C, Estrada R, Lucientes J, Osácar JJ, Villafuerte R (2004b) Effects of vaccination against viral haemorrhagic disease and myxomatosis on long-term mortality rates of European wild rabbits. Vet Rec 155:388–392PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Carvalho JC, Gomes P (2004) Influence of herbaceous cover, shelter and land cover structure on wild rabbit abundance in NW Portugal. Acta Theriol 49:63–74Google Scholar
  13. Delibes-Mateos M (2006) Relaciones entre los cambios poblacionales del conejo, la gestión cinegética, el hábitat y los depredadores: implicaciones para la conservación. PhD Universidad de Castilla La Mancha, Ciudad RealGoogle Scholar
  14. Delibes M, Hiraldo F (1981) The rabbit as prey in the Iberian Mediterranean ecosystem. I World Lagomorph Conference. University of Guelph, OntarioGoogle Scholar
  15. Delibes-Mateos M, Ferreras P, Villafuerte R (2007a) Rabbit populations and game management: the situation after 15 years of rabbit haemorrhagic disease in central-southern Spain. Biodivers Conserv DOI: 10.1007/s10531-007-9272-5Google Scholar
  16. Delibes-Mateos M, Redpath SM, Angulo E, Ferreras P, Villafuerte R (2007b) Rabbits as a keystone species in southern Europe. Biol Conserv 137(1):149–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fa JE, Sharples CM, Bell DJ (1999) Habitat correlates of European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) distribution after the spread of RVHD in Cadiz province, Spain. J Zool 249:83–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Forys EA, Humphrey SR (1997) Comparison of 2 methods to estimate density of an endangered lagomorph. J Wildl Manage 61:86–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gea-Izquierdo G, Muñoz-Igualada J, San Miguel-Ayanz A (2005) Rabbit warren distribution in relation to pasture communities in Mediterranean habitats: consequences for management of rabbit populations. Wildl Res 32:723–731CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Geraldes A, Ferrand N, Nachman MW (2006) Contrasting patterns of introgression at x-linked loci across the hybrid zone between subspecies of the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Genetics 173:919–933PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Iborra O, Lumaret JP (1997) Validity limits of the pellet group counts in wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Mammalia 61:205–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. IUCN (1987) IUCN/SSC guidelines for re-introductions. In 22nd Meeting of the IUCN Council, GlandGoogle Scholar
  23. Jaksic FM, Soriguer RC (1981) Predation upon the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in Mediterranean habitats of Chile and Spain: a comparative analysis. J Anim Ecol 50:269–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kolb HH (1985) The burrow structure of the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus L.). J Zool 206:253–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kolb HH (1991) Use of burrows and movements of wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in an area of hill grazing and forestry. J Appl Ecol 28:892–905CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kolb HH (1994) The use of cover and burrows by a population of rabbits (Mammalia: Oryctolagus cuniculus) in eastern Scotland. J Zool 233:9–17Google Scholar
  27. Lazo A, De Le Court C, Soriguer RC (1992) Evaluation of hare abundance allowed by their use of attraction points. Mamm Biol 57:373–379Google Scholar
  28. Lockley RM (1961) Social structure and stress in the rabbit warren. J Anim Ecol 30:385–423CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lombardi L, Fernández N, Moreno S, Villafuerte R (2003) Habitat-related differences in rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) abundance, distribution and activity. J Mammal 84:26–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Martins H, Barbosa H, Hodgson M, Borralho R, Rego F (2003) Effect of vegetation type and environmental factors on European wild rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus counts in a southern Portuguese Montado. Acta Theriol 48:385–398Google Scholar
  31. Moreno S, Villafuerte R (1995) Traditional management of scrubland for the conservation of rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus and their predators in Doñana National Park, Spain. Biol Conserv 73:81–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Moreno S, Villafuerte R, Cabezas S, Lombardi L (2004) Wild rabbit restocking for predator conservation in Spain. Biol Conserv 118:183–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Palomares F (2001) Comparison of three methods to estimate rabbit abundance in a Mediterranean environment. Wildl Soc Bull 29:578–585Google Scholar
  34. Palomares F (2003) Warren building by European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in relation to cover availability in a sandy area. J Zool 259:63–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Parer I (1977) The population ecology of the wild rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus (L.), in a Mediterranean-type Climate in New South Wales. Aust Wildl Res 4:171–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Parker BS, Hall LS, Myers K, Fullagar PJ (1976) The distribution of rabbit Warrens at Mitchell, Queensland, in relation to soil and vegetation characteristics. Aust Wildl Res 3:129–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rogers PM (1981) Ecology of the European wild rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus (L.), in Mediterranean habitats. II. Distribution in the landscape of the Camargue, S. France. J Appl Ecol 18:355–371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rogers PM, Myers K (1979) Ecology of the European wild rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus (L.), in Mediterranean habitats. I. Distribution in the landscape of the Coto Doñana, S. Spain. J Appl Ecol 16:691–703CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Simberloff D (1996) Hybridization between native and introduced wildlife species: importance for conservation. Wildlife Biol 2:143–150Google Scholar
  40. Simonetti JA (1989) Microhabitat use by Oryctolagus cuniculus in central Chile: a reassessment. Mammalia 53:363–368Google Scholar
  41. Taylor RH, Williams RM (1956) The use of pellet counts for estimating the density of populations of the wild rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus (L.). N.Z. J Sci Technol 38:236–256Google Scholar
  42. Viggers KL, Lindenmayer DB, Spratt DM (1993) The importance of disease in reintroduction programmes. Wildl Res 20:687–698CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Villafuerte R, Calvete C, Blanco JC, Lucientes J (1995) Incidence of viral haemorrhagic disease in wild rabbit populations in Spain. Mammalia 59:651–659CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Villafuerte R, Lazo A, Moreno S (1997) Influence of food abundance and quality on rabbit fluctuations: conservation and management implications in Doñana National Park (SW Spain). Rev Ecol (Terre Vie) 52:345–356Google Scholar
  45. Villafuerte R, Viñuela J, Blanco JC (1998) Extensive predator persecution caused by population crash in a game species: the case of red kites and rabbits in Spain. Biol Conserv 84:181–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Virgós E, Cabezas-Díaz S, Malo A, Lozano J, López-Huertas D (2003) Factors shaping European rabbit abundance in continuous and fragmentated populations of central Spain. Acta Theriol 48:113–122Google Scholar
  47. Wallage-Drees JM (1983) Effects of food on onset of breeding in rabbits, Oryctolagus cuniculus (L.), in a sand dune habitat. Acta Zool Fenn 174:57–59Google Scholar
  48. Wheeler SH, King DR, Robinson MH (1981) Habitat and warren utilization by the European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus (L.), as determined by radio-tracking. Aust Wildl Res 8:581–588CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Williams D, Acevedo P, Gortazar C, Escudero MA, Labarta JL, Marco J, Villafuerte R (2007) Hunting for answers: rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) population trends in northeastern Spain. Eur J Wildl Res 53:19–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • I. Catalán
    • 1
  • P. Rodríguez-Hidalgo
    • 1
  • F. S. Tortosa
    • 1
  1. 1.Zoology DepartmentCórdoba University (Spain)CórdobaSpain

Personalised recommendations