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Control of the European rabbit in central Spain

Abstract

The European rabbit is a growing problem for agriculture in parts of its natural range. In this study, our aim was to use historical records over two periods within the last 50 years to analyze trends in the number of requests made for rabbit control in Central Spain. We gathered data on rabbit control applications made in 1967 from Rabbit and Hare Control Authorization Records (CARs) and corresponding information for 2005 from Technical Hunting Plans (THPs). THPs are currently the official mechanism to apply for rabbit control licenses in the country. We show that although only 4.2 % of municipalities requested to control rabbits in 1967, this proportion was 71 % in 2005. Given that there is no evidence of rabbit population increases in the study region, we suggest that other factors may explain the observed rise in control requests. We contend that sport hunting is the main reason for the higher numbers of control requests in 2005. Evidence for this is the fact that hunting has increased since the 1960s as a means of augmenting income for landowners, and that the most requested method for control was the shotgun. Based on these results, we recommend that in order to adequately assess the real negative impacts of rabbits on human interests in Spain there is a need to implement a more robust data-gathering mechanism when control requests are made. We suggest the development of a more detailed control application form, similar to that used in Spain in the 1960s, in which the reason(s) for a rabbit control request can be clearly described.

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Acknowledgments

CAR-S was supported by a doctoral grant from the National Council on Science and Technology of Mexico (CONACyT). MD-M holds a Juan de la Cierva research contract (Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación; European Social Fund). Funding was provided by projects PREG-05-22, CGL2009-11665/BOS, PEII 09-0097-4363, and POII09-0099-2557; all attract EUFEDER funds. We particularly thank Jesús Cañadilla for field assistance during CAR analysis, and John E. Fa and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Rafael Villafuerte.

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Communicated by C. Gortazar

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Ríos-Saldaña, C.A., Delibes-Mateos, M., Castro, F. et al. Control of the European rabbit in central Spain. Eur J Wildl Res 59, 573–580 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10344-013-0707-x

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Keywords

  • Wildlife conflict
  • Keystone species
  • Crop damage
  • Oryctolagus cuniculus
  • Hunting