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A longer confinement period favors European wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) survival during soft releases in low-cover habitats

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Rabbit restocking is widely used in Spain for conservation and/or hunting purposes; however, the success of rabbit restocking is generally low. Thus, many studies have assessed ways to reduce this problem, one of which is the use of a “soft-release” procedure whereby rabbits are acclimated to their release site for a variable time period prior to release. This study assessed the short-term effects of two soft-release confinement periods on the survival of rabbits during an experimental restocking program carried out in southwest Spain. The post-release survival rate of rabbits confined at the release site for six nights was significantly higher than that of rabbits confined for three nights. The longer acclimation period after rabbit translocation minimized mortality while rabbits adapted to their new environment.

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C. Rouco was supported by a postdoctoral grant from the regional government of Castilla-La Mancha (JCCM), and the European Social Fund. Funding was provided by the projects by Confederación Hidrográfica del Guadalquivir, by the Projects CGL2005-02340/BOS, FAU2006-0014-C-02-02, PAI06-170, and PREG-05-022. Special thanks go to C. Calvete, G. Calabuig, M. Delibes-Mateos, R. Estrada, C. Iriarte, A. Linares, S. Luna, L. E. Mínguez, O. Rodriguez, and M. Reglero for support during field work and to Dr. Walburga Lutz and two anonymous referees for their helpful comments on previous drafts of the manuscript. The work reported in this paper comply with the standards and procedures laid down by the Spanish legislation.

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Correspondence to Carlos Rouco.

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Communicated by C. Gortázar

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Rouco, C., Ferreras, P., Castro, F. et al. A longer confinement period favors European wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) survival during soft releases in low-cover habitats. Eur J Wildl Res 56, 215–219 (2010).

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