Watch out for ‘Bright Eyes’ . . .
THERE is a bit of a misconception that most mammals hibernate in winter but actually most of them don’t.
Hedgehogs and bats, who rely heavily on insects for food, do go to sleep to slow their systems down until their prey comes out in the warmer months.
But rabbits just carry on as normal seeking food at dawn and dusk in pretty much all weathers. You will have seen their tracks in the snow.
A bunny’s summer food of flowers, grass and clovers may be in short supply in winter but they change their diets accordingly and feed on bark, buds, twigs and any greenery that is available. If you are out early enough you will see them busily seeking food close to their burrows.
Winter is a dangerous time for our furry favourites as they may have to stray a little further than usual for a festive feast. And because other mammals may be resting up waiting for better weather, predators, like birds of prey, will be on the lookout for rabbits.
Catching a rabbit in winter will be a good meal for a predator when food is so thin on the ground in January and February. Also a rabbit might not be quite as fast as usual in the colder months.
Rabbits are prey for a variety of animals, including stoats, buzzards, polecats and red foxes.
This is all very natural – so the people who were keen on the new Watership Down being “less cruel” really need a lesson in life.
Children should not be traumatised by animals hunting for food, it should be an interesting experience in how nature works, particularly if they see it happening in their own area.
After all, rabbits were introduced into the UK by the Normans for food and fur. Despite problems with disease in the past, they have continued to grow in numbers and can be found pretty much everywhere. I have seen them on the sand dunes at St Annes.
Does produce one litter of between three and seven young every month from January to August, hence the term “breeding like rabbits”.
Rabbits are greyishbrown in colour with long ears and long hind legs. They have a fluffy white tail. Some people may mistake them for muchrarer hares, but hares tend to be bigger and longer, with black tips on their ears. Rabbits live in warrens, which are extensive underground shelters and they may burrow in the snow in extreme conditions.
When you are out for your New Year strolls, make sure you keep an eye out for rabbit tracks and you may even see a couple of our lovely mammals. It’s a great excuse to burst into song – Art Garfunkel’s “Bright Eyes” or Chas and Dave’s “Rabbit Rabbit.” On second thoughts...! »»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. The Trust has 29,000 members, and over 1,200 volunteers. To become a member go to www.lancswt.org.uk or call 01772 324129.