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

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

Abstract

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.


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