BACK ON THE BUNNIES
After a winter layoff from rabbit shooting, Mat Manning makes a return to coney control with an evening on the pony paddocks
Rabbit numbers have been up and down on my patch over the past few years. Myxomatosis, which has been around for decades, takes its toll, but there always seem to be a few resistant rabbits that make it through and create a new breeding stock.
Far more devastating over recent years has been the impact of rabbit haemorrhagic disease, usually referred to as RHD or RVHD. This highly infectious disease kills very quickly, leaves barely any external signs and has a mortality rate of between 70 and 100 percent. Rabbit populations can disappear very swiftly when it strikes.
RHD has been the reason for the decline in rabbit numbers where I live – certainly over the past two or three years. Last year it struck just as the bunnies appeared to be making a comeback, and the result was that I did almost no rabbit shooting at all through the winter and early spring months – there was simply no need to keep their numbers in check.
I am pleased to say that my local rabbit population has been doing a lot better over the last few months. Rabbits have a remarkable ability to bounce back from the brink. Their ability to rapidly multiply is the stuff of legend and it’s a reputation that they continue to live up to.
The rabbits’ return is patchy and while some areas remain almost devoid of them, others now have large numbers – so many that they are causing serious damage. The farm where I am shooting this evening is one such place.
Several fields are used as pony paddocks, and the rabbits here are burrowing around the field margins and the surrounding hedge banks. This is a serious problem on an equine holding as horses and ponies can break a leg when a hoof goes down a rabbit hole. For this reason, the owners are eager to see the offending bunnies thinned out.