A study of the inter-warren activities and dispersal of wild rabbits, Oryctolagus cuniculus (L.), living in a 45-AC paddock
R Mykytowycz and S Gambale
CSIRO Wildlife Research
10(1) 111 - 123
The behaviour of free-living rabbits was studied in a paddock of 45 ac over a period of 18 months. Three pairs of rabbits introduced into each of three separate warrens reproduced freely and at the end of the first breeding season the population reached a peak of 58 rabbits; only a threefold increase. The next breeding season was even less successful, mainly because of predation by cats and foxes. Finally, an outbreak of infectious myxomatosis drastically reduced the numbers and only eight rabbits survived. All forms of social and territorial behaviour previously seen in populations confined to small experimental enclosures were encountered. In each warren the rabbits established a social and territorial system. Interchange of individuals between one warren and another took place only during the non-breeding seasons. Only a few highly sexually active individuals-mainly bucks-managed to attach themselves to new warrens. The importance of the warrens as safe breeding places was apparent. Isolated breeding stops made only by subordinate individuals were found to be breeding places of inferior quality. The gregariousness of rabbits was reflected in the efforts of kittens born in breeding stops to attach themselves to existing warrens. The existence of warrens seemed to inhibit the dispersal of rabbits within the paddock. No new warrens were established despite ample space and food in the paddock. The rabbits seemed to concentrate around existing warrens despite hostilities by the occupants. Warrens were not equally attractive to rabbits.
Full text doi:10.1071/CWR9650111
© CSIRO 1965