The European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus has once again established itself as the major vertebrate pest of British agriculture, causing economic losses estimated to be in millions of pounds annually. The total winter population is estimated to be at 35% to 40% of the pre-myxomatosis level (circa 1952) and is increasing by about 2% annually. This is due primarily to the reduced effect of myxomatosis, resulting from increased levels of genetic resistance. Given the problems associated with rabbits, this increase in numbers is likely to be accompanied by a corresponding rise in the amount of serious crop damage reported.
It is essential, therefore, that effective control strategies are available to ensure that crops vulnerable to rabbit damage are adequately protected. This will serve to benefit landowners and occupiers who have a statutory responsibility to manage rabbit infestations on their land and to prevent them causing damage to neighbouring properties.
Prevention is always better than the cure, the correct installation of Rabbit fencing has been found to be most effective in denying access and dramatically reduces damage combined with a riddance programme for rabbits left inside the enclosed area post fencing install allows for a complete clearance and control of any further damage. The use of further control measures such as Ferreting, Trapping and the use of firearms will effectively reduce activity to a manageable level and every site found to have activity should be surveyed to establish the correct treatment combination required to manage the activity.