Various mammals, particularly carnivores, reportedly establish smaller home ranges in urban compared with rural areas. This may be because urban environments provide optimal resources within a small area, negating the requirement to range further, or because habitat fragmentation constrains ranging behavior. Comparable information on urban populations of herbivorous mammalian species (such as European rabbits) is scarce. To fill this knowledge gap, we radio-tracked 13 individuals (seven females and six males) equipped with radio collars in a suburban and an urban study site in the city of Frankfurt am Main in Germany during the reproductive season (March to September) of 2012. The study sites differed in levels of habitat fragmentation. We report the smallest home ranges ever described for this species, with mean 95% minimum convex polygons (MCPs) covering 0.50 ha, while no consistent differences between sites were uncovered. We occasionally tracked individuals crossing streets underground (in burrows), suggesting that streets may restrict the ranging behavior of rabbits—and possibly other burrowing species—to a much lesser extent than previously thought. We conclude that heterogeneous landscape structures, made up of a diverse mosaic of buildings, parks, and gardens, provide sufficient food and shelter in close proximity to burrows at both study sites. Therefore, our data support the hypothesis that optimal resources constrain ranges in this case rather than habitat fragmentation.
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We thank T. Dieckmann from the Frankfurter Grünflächenamt, Dr. M. Wolfsteiner from the Einwohnermeldeamt Frankfurt, and P. Winkemann from the Stadtvermessungsamt Frankfurt who kindly provided us with site-specific information and map material. We are grateful to all hunters (A. Seidemann, M. Roscher) who participated in this study and helped catching rabbits. Additional help in the field was provided by H. Lerp, Y. Bohr, S. Christ, A. Schießl, and M. Weinhardt.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
All experimental procedures described here were in accordance with the current laws on animal experimentation in Germany and the European Union and approved by licensed hunters (hunting license 1000250221; ID for permission to radio collar rabbits: V54-19c 20/15 152 – F 104/59).
Communicated by: Magdalena Niedziałkowska
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Ziege, M., Hermann, B.T., Kriesten, S. et al. Ranging behavior of European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in urban and suburban landscapes. Mamm Res 65, 607–614 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13364-020-00490-2