A good rabbit about bunnies
I LIVE in the countryside and holiday in the countryside, so I am never short of seeing a rabbit or two.
At the moment there are cute bunnies running around all over the place and tiny kits are keeping grass levels down in all areas of the region.
We see them on the moorlands, on lowland mosses, in woodland, meadows and even on the sand dunes of Merseyside and Lancashire.
Rabbits look quite serene but get too close and they will shoot off into nearby burrows. They will probably hear you first with those long ears and then see you with eyes that help them see nearly 360 degrees – there is a small blind spot at the front of their nose.
A grey-brown colour with a fluffy white tail, rabbits are smaller than hares and do not have black tips on their ears.
The burrows are dug out of the earth with their strong nails and their teeth. However I heard recently of a case in Wigan where huge boulders from the iron smelting industry were dumped on a hill. The local rabbits nested in holes in the cylindrical rocks.
Male rabbits are bucks and females are does. Over the past couple of years their offspring have been called kittens or kits. Apparently rabbits used to be called coneys and babies were called rabbits until they were a year old.
Rabbits live in large groups in extensive underground burrow systems known as warrens.
They are at their most active at sunrise and sunset and spend more than eight hours a night sleeping. They sleep with their eyes open so they can be ready for action in case of danger.
Rabbits eat grass and leafy weeds, both hard to digest. This means they eat, poop and then eat it again. The soft pellets still contain lots of nutrients. I apologise if you are eating your dinner. The hard pellets you will see on fields and footpaths are the second batch.
In the UK rabbit numbers are quite high because of the distinct lack of predators – foxes, badgers and some birds of prey will take them.
If a rabbit is facing a potential threat it will thump the ground with its hind legs to warn other bunnies in the vicinity. Rabbits shouldn’t expect to live for more than a couple of years, but the oldest on record was 18 in Tasmania.
And it’s not just being hunted that kills our rabbits, they have suffered horrific diseases over the years, particularly myxomatosis, which is still around but does not devastate the population as it did in the past.
Okay, so rabbits can be a problem in large numbers, particularly to our farmers, but we still love them, don’t we?
How many rabbit villains can you remember in literature? Bugs Bunny, Bre’r Rabbit or Harvey were all goodies and the Easter Bunny arrives with Easter eggs.
Maybe we should appreciate our bunnies a bit more, they don’t have an easy life and they are irresistibly cute.
The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside is dedicated to the protection and promotion of the wildlife in Lancashire, seven boroughs of Greater Manchester and four of Merseyside, all lying north of the River Mersey. It manages around 40 nature reserves and 20 local nature reserves covering acres of woodland, wetland, upland and meadow. The trust has 27,000 members, and over 1,200 volunteers. To become a member of the trust, go to the website at www. lancswt.org.uk or call 01772 324129. For more information about Cheshire Wildlife Trust, call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewildlifetrust. org.uk.