Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats

The effect of exclusion of terrestrial predators on short-term survival of translocated European wild rabbits

C. Rouco A B , P. Ferreras A , F. Castro A and R. Villafuerte A

A Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos, IREC (CSIC-UCLM-JCCM), Ronda de Toledo s/n, 13005 – Ciudad Real, Spain.

B Corresponding author. Email: c.rouco@gmail.com

Wildlife Research 35(7) 625-632 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WR07151
Submitted: 21 September 2007  Accepted: 18 June 2008   Published: 17 November 2008


Many translocation methods have been tested in southern Europe in recent decades to increase the translocation success of the European wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus L.) for both conservation and game purposes. The main problem experienced during such translocations is the high short-term (7 days) mortality attributed to predation during the days immediately following rabbit release. In this study, we test the effect of the exclusion of terrestrial predators on the survival of translocated rabbits for recovery purposes. Four translocation plots (4 ha with 18 artificial warrens each) were constructed, two of them with a fence to exclude terrestrial predators. In all, 724 rabbits were released to the translocation plots in five batches and forced to remain inside warrens for 7 days. Following liberation, exclusion of predators did not increase rabbit survival in the short term. Contrary to expectations, three months after release, survival of rabbits in the unfenced plot was slightly, but not significantly, higher than in the fenced plot (0.57 and 0.40 respectively). Although predator control is a frequent management practice associated with rabbit translocations, our results suggest that it may not favour rabbit survival rate as much as the adaptation of rabbits to the release site.


Ambrose H. W. 1972 Effect of habitat familiarity and toe-clipping on rate of owl predation in Microtus pennsylvanicus. Journal of Mammalogy 53 909 912 doi:10.2307/1379235

Angulo E. Villafuerte R. 2003 Modelling hunting strategies for the conservation of wild rabbit populations. Biological Conservation 115 291 301 doi:10.1016/S0006-3207(03)00148-4

Banks P. B. 2000 Can foxes regulate rabbit populations? Journal of Wildlife Management 64 401 406 doi:10.2307/3803238

Blanco J. C. (1988). Estudio ecológico del zorro, Vulpes vulpes (L., 1758), en la sierra de Guadarrama. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Oviedo.

Blanco J. C. , Barrios L. , and Narváez M. (2006). Estudio de los carnívoros predadores de la zona de la Sierra Norte de Sevilla. Final Report. Consultores en Biología de la Conservación, Madrid, Spain.

Branco M. Ferrand N. Monnerot M. 2000 Phylogeography of the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) on the Iberian Peninsula inferred from RFLP analysis of the cytochrome b gene. Heredity 85 307 317 doi:10.1046/j.1365-2540.2000.00756.x

Bright P. W. Morris P. A. 1994 Animal translocations for conservation performance of dormice in relation to release methods, origin and season. Journal of Applied Ecology 31 699 708 doi:10.2307/2404160

Calvete C. Estrada R. 2004 Short-term survival and dispersal of translocated European wild rabbits. Improving the release protocol. Biological Conservation 120 507 516 doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2004.03.023

Calvete C. Villafuerte R. Lucientes J. Osacar J. J. 1997 Effectiveness of traditional wild rabbit restocking in Spain. Journal of Zoology 241 271 277

Calvete C. Angulo E. Estrada R. Moreno S. Villafuerte R. 2005 Quarantine length and survival of translocated European wild rabbits. Journal of Wildlife Management 69 1063 1072

Cotilla I. Villafuerte R. 2007 Modelling the timing of restocking and extraction for rabbit conservation. Wildlife Research 34 247 252

Cowan D. P. 1984 The use of ferrets (Mustela furo) in the study and management of the European wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Journal of Zoology 204 570 574

Curio E. 1996 Conservation needs ethology. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 11 260 263

Davis M. H. 1983 Post-release movements of introduced marten. Journal of Wildlife Management 47 59 66 doi:10.2307/3808052

Delibes M. , and Hiraldo F. (1981). The rabbit as prey in the Iberian Mediterranean ecosystem. In ‘Procceedings of the World Lagomorph Conference 1979’. (Eds K. Myers and C. D. MacInnes.) pp. 614–622. (University of Guelph: Ontario.)

Delibes-Mateos M. Redpath S. M. Angulo E. Ferreras P. Villafuerte R. 2007 Rabbits as a keystone species in southern Europe. Biological Conservation 137 149 156 doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2007.01.024

Delibes-Mateos M. Delibes M. Ferreras P. Villafuerte R. 2008 a The key role of European rabbits in the conservation of the western Mediterranean basin hotspot. Conservation Biology 22 1106 1117 doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.00993.x

Delibes-Mateos M. Ferreras P. Villafuerte R. 2008 b Rabbit populations and game management: the situation after 15 years of rabbit haemorrhagic disease in central-southern Spain. Biodiversity and Conservation 17 559 574 doi:10.1007/s10531-007-9272-5

Delibes-Mateos M. Ramírez E. Ferreras P. Villafuerte R. 2008 c Translocations as a risk for the conservation of European wild rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus lineages. Oryx 42 259 264 doi:10.1017/S0030605308006984

González L. M. (1989). Historia natural del águila imperial ibérica. Ph.D. Thesis, Autónoma University, Madrid, Spain.

Heisey D. M. Fuller T. K. 1985 Evaluation of survival and cause-specific mortality rates using telemetry data. Journal of Wildlife Management 49 668 674 doi:10.2307/3801692

Hurst J. L. Barnard C. J. Hare R. Wheeldon E. B. West C. D. 1996 Housing and welfare in laboratory rats: time budgeting and pathophysiology in single sex groups. Animal Behaviour 52 335 360 doi:10.1006/anbe.1996.0179

Letty J. Marchandeau S. Clobert J. Aubineau J. 2000 Improving translocation success: an experimental study of antistress treatment and release method for wild rabbit. Animal Conservation 3 211 219 doi:10.1111/j.1469-1795.2000.tb00105.x

Letty J. Marchandeau S. Reitz S. Clobert J. Sarrazin F. 2002 Survival and movements of translocated wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Game Wildlife Science 19 1 23

Letty J. Aubineau J. Marchandeau S. Clobert J. 2003 Effect of traslocation on survival in wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Mammalian Biology 68 250 255

Letty J. Aubineau J. Marchandeau S. 2005 Effect of storage conditions on dispersal and short-term survival of translocated wild rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus. Wildlife Biology 11 249 255 doi:10.2981/0909-6396(2005)11[249:EOSCOD]2.0.CO;2

Littell R. C. , Milliken G. A. , Stroup W. W. , and Wolfinger R. D. (1996). ‘SAS System for Mixed Models.’ (SAS Institute Inc.: Cary, NC.)

Lyles A. M. May R. M. 1987 Problems in leaving the ark. Nature 326 245 246 doi:10.1038/326245a0

Moreno S. Villafuerte R. 1995 Traditional management of scrubland for the conservation of rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus and their predators in Doñana National Park, Spain. Biological Conservation 73 81 85 doi:10.1016/0006-3207(95)90069-1

Moreno S. Villafuerte R. Cabezas S. Lombardi L. 2004 Wild rabbit restocking for predator conservation in Spain. Biological Conservation 118 183 193 doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2003.07.020

Muñoz G. (1960). Anverso y reverso de la mixomatosis. Madrid: Dirección General de Montes, Caza y Pesca Fluvial.

Newsome A. E. 1990 The control of vertebrate pests by vertebrate predators. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 5 187 191 doi:10.1016/0169-5347(90)90208-U

Newsome A. E. Parer I. Catling P. C. 1989 Prolonged prey suppression by carnivores – predator removal experiments. Oecologia 78 458 467 doi:10.1007/BF00378734

Palomares F. 2001 Comparison of 3 methods to estimate rabbit abundance in Mediterranean environment. Wildlife Society Bulletin 29 578 585

Parer I. Libke J. A. 1985 Distribution of rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus, warrens in relation to soil type. Australian Wildlife Research 12 387 405

Pech R. P. Sinclair A. R. E. Newsome A. E. Catling P. C. 1992 Limits to predator regulation of rabbits in Australia: evidence from predator-removal experiments. Oecologia 89 102 112 doi:10.1007/BF00319021

Podberscek A. L. Blackshaw J. K. Beattie A. W. 1991 The behaviour of group penned and individually caged laboratory rabbits. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 28 353 363 doi:10.1016/0168-1591(91)90167-V

Valverde J. A. (1967). Estructura de una comunidad mediterránea de vertebrados terrestres. Monografía Estación Biologica de Doñana 1. Madrid: CSIC.

Villafuerte R. Calvete C. Blanco J. C. Lucientes J. 1995 Incidence of viral hemorrhagic disease in wild rabbit populations in Spain. Mammalia 59 651 659

Villafuerte R. Viñuela J. Blanco J. C. 1998 Extensive predator persecution caused by a population crash in a game species: the case of red kites and rabbits in Spain. Biological Conservation 84 181 188

Viñuela J. Villafuerte R. De le Court C. 1994 Nesting dispersion of a black kite population in relation to location of wild rabbit warrens. Canadian Journal of Zoology 72 1680 1683

Rent Article Export Citation Cited By (21)