Advertisement

Mammalian Biology

, Volume 95, Issue 1, pp 35–40 | Cite as

Supplementary food reduces home ranges of European wild rabbits in an intensive agricultural landscape

  • Carlos RoucoEmail author
  • Isabel C. BarrioEmail author
  • Francesca Cirilli
  • Francisco S. Tortosa
  • Rafael Villafuerte
Original investigation

Abstract

Understanding use of space in free ranging populations that cause damage to agriculture can help in the design of measures aimed at reducing their impact. Food availability is known to determine use of space in terrestrial vertebrates so, providing alternative food sources during a specific time period may help the management of vertebrate pests by reducing their ranging behavior. We investigated space use by a crop damaging species, the European wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), in an intensively-managed agricultural landscape within its native range and evaluated the potential of food availability to restrict areas of rabbit activity. We determined the size of day-time home range (95% minimum convex polygon, MCP) and core area (50% MCP) of rabbits before and after providing additional food to one rabbit population, while an unsupplemented population served as a control. Rabbits in the study area had large home ranges in comparison with those previously reported in the literature, probably linked to the heterogeneous and unpredictable distribution of resources in intensively-managed Mediterranean agro-ecosystems. There was a general reduction in size of home ranges and core areas between the experimental phases, but we found evidence that additional feeding restricted the space use of rabbits. The wide-ranging behavior of rabbits documented in the present study might explain why even moderate rabbit densities can cause widespread damage to crops. These findings may facilitate the design of management tools to mitigate damage in agricultural areas where rabbits are considered an agricultural pest.

Keywords

Food availability Use of space Lagomorph Management Vertebrate pest Wildlife damage 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Banks, P.B., Hume, I.D., Crowe, O., 1999. Behavioural, morphological and dietary response of rabbits to predation risk from foxes. Oikos 85, 247–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barrio, I.C., Acevedo, P., Tortosa, F.S., 2010a. Assessment of methods for estimating wild rabbit population abundance in agricultural landscapes. Eur. J. Wildl. Res. 56, 335–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barrio, I.C., Bueno, C.G., Tortosa, F.S., 2010b. Alternative food and rabbit damage in vineyards of southern Spain. Agric, Ecosyst. Environ., Appl. Soil Ecol. 138, 51–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barrio, I.e., Villafuerte, R., Tortosa, F.S., 2012. Can cover crops reduce rabbit-induced damages in vineyards in southern Spain? Wildl. Biol. 18, 88–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barrio, I.C., Bueno, C.G., Villafuerte, R., Tortosa, F.S., 2013. Rabbits, weeds and crops: Can agricultural intensification promote wildlife conflicts in semiarid agro-ecosystems? J. Arid Environ. 90, 1–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boutin, S., 1984. Effect of late winter food addition on numbers and movements of snows hoe hares. Oecologia 62, 393–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Boutin, S., 1990. Food supplementation experiments with terrestrial vertebrates: patterns, problems and the future. Can. J. Zool. 68, 203–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Buenestado, F.J., Ferreras, P., Delibes-Mateos, M., Tortosa, F.S., Blanco-Aguiar, J.A., Villafuerte, R., 2008. Habitat selection and home range size of red-legged partridges in Spain. Agric, Ecosyst. Environ., Appl. Soil Ecol. 126, 158–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Carpio, A.J., Soriano, M.A., Guerrero-Casado, J., Prada, L.M., Tortosa, F.S., Lora, Á., Gómez, J.A., 2017. Evaluation of an unpalatable species (Anthémis arvensis L.) as an alternative cover crop in olive groves under high grazing pressure by rabbits. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 246, 48–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Conover, M., 2001. Resolving Human-wildlife Conflicts. The Science of Wildlife Damage Management. Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton.Google Scholar
  11. Cowan, D.P., 1987. Aspects of the social organisation of the European wild rabbit (Oryctoiagus cuniculus). Ethology 75, 197–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Daniels, M.J., Lees, J.D., Hutchings, M.R., Greig, A., 2003. The ranging behaviour and habitat use of rabbits on farmland and their potential role in the epidemiology of paratuberculosis. Vet. J. 165, 248–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Delibes-Mateos, M., Ferreras, P., Villafuerte, R., 2008. Rabbit populations and game management: the situation after 15 years of rabbit haemorrhagic disease in central-southern Spain. J. Biodivers. Conserv. Bioresour. Manag. 17, 559–574.Google Scholar
  14. Delibes-Mateos, M., Ferreras, P., Villafuerte, R., 2009. European rabbit population trends and associated factors: a review of the situation in the Iberian Peninsula. Mamm. Rev. 39, 124–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Delibes-Mateos, M., Ferreira, C., Rouco, C., Villafuerte, R., Barrio, I.C., 2014. Conservationists, hunters and farmers: the European rabbit Oryctoiagus cuniculus management conflict in the Iberian Peninsula. Mamm. Rev. 44, 190–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Delibes-Mateos, M., Farfán, M.A., Rouco, C., Olivero, J., Marquez, A.L., Fa, J.E., Vargas, J.M., Villafuerte, R., 2018. A large-scale assessment of European rabbit damage to agriculture in Spain. Pest Manage. Sci. 74, 111–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Devillard, S., Aubineau, J., Berger, F., Bergerb, F., Leonard, Y., Roobrouckb, A., Marchandeau, S., 2008. Home range of the European rabbit (Oryctoiagus cuniculus) in three contrasting French populations. Mamm. Biol. 73, 128–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Efford, M.G., Dawson, D.K., Jhala, Y.V., Qureshi, Q., 2016. Density-dependent home-range size revealed by spatially explicit capture-recapture. Ecography 39, 676–688.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Eide, N.E., Jepsen, J.U., Prestrud, P., 2004. Spatial organization of reproductive Arctic foxes Alopex lagopus: responses to changes in spatial and temporal availability of prey. J. Anim. Ecol. 73, 1056–1068.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ferguson, S.H., Taylor, M.K., Born, E.W., Rosing-Asvid, A., Messier, F., 1999. Determinants of home range size for polar bears (Ursus maritimus). Ecol. Lett. 2, 311–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fox, A.D., Elmberg, J., Tombre, I.M., Hessel, R., 2017. Agriculture and herbivorous waterfowl: a review of the scientific basis for improved management. Biol. Rev. 92, 854–877.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gonçalves, H., Alves, P.C., Rocha, A., 2002. Seasonal variation in the reproductive activity of the wild rabbit (Oryctoiagus cuniculus aigirus) in a Mediterranean ecosystem. Wildl. Res. 29, 165–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Goodrich, J.M., Buskirk, S.W., 1995. Control of abundant native vertebrates for conservation of endangered species. Cons. Biol. 9, 1357–1364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hulbert, I.A.R., Iason, G.R., Eiston, D.A., Racey, P.A., 1996. Home-range sizes in a stratified upland landscape of two lagomorphs with different feeding strategies. J. Appl. Ecol. 33, 1479–1488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Johnson, D.D.P., Kays, R., Blackwell, P.G., Macdonald, D.W., 2002. Does the resource dispersion hypothesis explain group living? Trends Ecol. Evol. 17, 563–570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kauhala, K., Hiltunen, M., Salonen, T., 2005. Home ranges of mountain hares Lepus timidus in boreal forests of Finland. Wildl. Biol. 11, 193–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kenward, R.E., 2001. A Manual for Wildlife Radiotagging. Academic Press, London.Google Scholar
  28. Laver, P.N., Kelly, M.J., 2008. A critical review of home range studies. J. Wildl. Manage. 72, 290–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lombardi, L., Fernandez, N., Moreno, S., 2007. Habitat use and spatial behaviour in the European rabbit in three Mediterranean environments. Basic Appl. Ecol. 8, 453–463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Marboutin, E., Aebischer, N.J., 1996. Does harvesting arable crops influence the behaviour of the European hare Lepus europaeus? Wildl. Biol. 2, 83–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McLoughlin, P.D., Ferguson, S.H., 2000. A hierarchical pattern of limiting factors helps explain variation in home range size. Ecoscience 7, 123–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mitchell, M.S., Powell, R.A., 2004. A mechanistic home range model for optimal use of spatially distributed resources. Ecol. Model. 177, 209–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Moreno, S., Beltran, J.F., Cotilla, I., Kuffner, B., Laffite, R., Jordan, G., Ayala, J., Quintero, C., Jimenez, A., Castro, F., Cabezas, S., Villafuerte, R., 2007. Long-term decline of the European wild rabbit (Oryctoiagus cuniculus) in south-western Spain. Wildl. Res. 34, 652–658.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Moseby, K.E., De Jong, S., Munro, N., Pieck, A., 2005. Home range, activity and habitat use of European rabbits (Oryctoiagus cuniculus) in arid Australia: implications for control. Wildl. Res. 32, 305–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Petrovan, S.O., Dixie, J., Yapp, E., Wheeler, P.M., 2017. Bioenergy crops and farmland biodiversity: benefits and limitations are scale-dependant fora declining mammal, the brown hare. Eur. J. Wildl. Res. 63, 49.Google Scholar
  36. R Development Core Team, URL: 2018. R: a Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria https://www.R-project.org/.Google Scholar
  37. Rouco, C., Villafuerte, R., Castro, F., Ferreras, P., 2011. Responses of naïve and experienced European rabbits to predator odour. Eur. J. Wildl. Res. 57, 395–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rouco, C., Norbury, G.L., Smith, J., Byrom, A.E., Pech, R., 2013. Population density estimates of brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) in dry grassland in New Zealand. N.Z.J. Ecol. 37, 12–17.Google Scholar
  39. Rouco, C., Norbury, G.L., Anderson, D.P., 2017. Movements and habitat preferences of pest help to improve population control: the case of common brushtail possums in New Zealand dryland ecosystem. Pest Manage. Sci. 7, 287–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Schmutz, J.A., White, G.C., 1990. Error in telemetry studies: effects of animal movement on triangulation. J. Wildl. Manage. 54, 506–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Seaman, E., Millspaugh, J.J., Kernohan, B.J., Brundige, G.C., Raedeke, K.J., Gitzen, R.A., 1999. Effects of sample size on kernel home range estimates. J. Wildl. Manage. 63, 739–747.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Smith, G.C., Prickett, A.J., Cowan, D.P., 2007. Costs and benefits of rabbit control options at the local level. Int. J. Pest. Manage. 53, 317–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Stott, P., 2003. Use of space by sympatric European hares (Lepus europaeus) and European rabbits (Oryctoiagus cuniculus) in Australia. Mammal. Biol. Zeitschrift für Säugetierkunde 68, 317–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Trout, R.C., 2002. Rabbits in the farmland ecosystem. In: Tattersall, F., Manley, W. (Eds.), Farming and Mammals. Linnean Society, London.Google Scholar
  45. Tulloch, A.I.T., Nicol, S., Bunnefeld, N., 2014. Quantifying the expected value of uncertain management choices for over-abundant Greylag Geese. Biol. Conserv. 214, 147–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Van Vuren, D., Smallwood, K.S., 1996. Ecological management of vertebrate pests in agricultural systems. Biol. Agric. Hort. 13, 41–64.Google Scholar
  47. Villafuerte, R., 1994. Riesgo De Predación Y Estrategias Defensivas Del Conejo En El Parque Nacional De Donana. University of Córdoba, PhD thesis.Google Scholar
  48. Villafuerte, R., Kufner, M.B., Delibes, M., Moreno, S., 1993. Environmental factors influencing the seasonal daily activity of the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in a Mediterranean area. Mammalia 57, 341–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Vitousek, P.M., Mooney, H.A., Lubchenco, J., Melillo, J.M., 1997. Human domination of Earth’s ecosystems. Science 277, 494–499.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. White, G.C., Garrot, R.A., 1990. Analysis of Wildlife Radio-tracking Data. Academic Press, Inc., San Diego, CA.Google Scholar
  51. White, P.C.L., Newton-Cross, G.A., Gray, M., Ashford, R., White, C., Saunders, G., 2003. Spatial interactions and habitat use of rabbits on pasture and implications for the spread of rabbit haemorrhagic disease in New South Wales. Wildl. Res. 30, 49–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carlos Rouco
    • 1
    Email author
  • Isabel C. Barrio
    • 1
    Email author
  • Francesca Cirilli
    • 1
  • Francisco S. Tortosa
    • 1
    • 2
  • Rafael Villafuerte
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of CordobaCórdobaSpain
  2. 2.Escuela Superior Politécnica Agropecuaria de ManabíCalcetaEcuador
  3. 3.Instituto de Estudios Sociales Avanzados (IESA-CSIC)Campo Santo de los MártiresCórdobaSpain

Personalised recommendations