Threat s : In Australia , the European rabbit is a downright pest. And because it has been an exotic introduction to the Australian ecosystem for over a century already, the threats it poses to the land have been well-documented and far outnumber the benefits. Few countries have been more ecologically and economically affected by a single introduced species.
Because of its extremely high population--has fluctuated but has been believed to reach almost a billion at one time--and indiscriminate eating habits, it has continually decimated most of the local sheep and cattle's grass, turning once-thriving sheep ranches into wastelands and thus at one point cutting wool production in half.
Many other plant species and competing animals have been driven to the brink of extinction by the rabbits' unstoppable appetite. Selective grazing by the rabbits has changed whole ecosystems and has contributed to soil erosion. Also, the rabbit has been known to drive some smaller mammals such as native mice out of their burrows, helping foxes also recently introduced to Australia catch these smaller mammals, hurting their populations.
Native wildlife has also been hurt by the poison and traps left out to catch the rabbits. Control Level Diagnosis: "Highest Priority. Control Method: Several methods have been attempted in the past years. Shortly after its introduction in and subsequent population explosion within 50 years, bounty hunting of the European rabbit was finally implemented. Hunters were given money for turning in rabbit tails and millions were caught.
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In the early s, the Australian government spent a million dollars to build a 2,mile long fence which kept the rabbits away from the cereal-growing southern regions for a while, until a few got through the fence and started breeding again on the other side. In a virus that causes a mild illness called myxomytosis in Brazilian rabbits was found to be lethal in European rabbits. The virus was promptly released into the wild in Australia and effectively spread like wildfire through mosquito and rabbit flea bites, and killed all but 0. This small percentage had built a resistance to the virus, bred like rabbits, and passed on the resistance to the virus.
The population exploded again. By this had instigated Australian officials to investigate the possible use of this virus to once again cull the rabbit population.
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Researchers started conducting experiments with the virus in , but in October a lab rabbit carrying the virus got out and promptly spread the disease in the wild with devastating consequences once again. The effects of this virus are still being felt in the European rabbit population in Australia today. However, researchers have not stopped there. They are currently investigating the possibility of controlling the rabbit population through birth rather than death. This new, biotechnological idea is called immunocontraception. It involves injecting a manufactured virus that fools the rabbit's body into thinking that certain proteins found on sperm and egg cells are foreign.
Hares are easily stressed, panicked or traumatised. European hares are primarily solitary animals but may form hierarchies with both male and female members. Instead they rest in a shallow depression in the ground called a 'form'. A hare's form is usually found amongst long grass, rocks, logs or branches, oval in shape and around mm x mm in dimension. Leverets are born into a type of nest created within a form. Hares are primarily herbivorous and feed mainly after sunset. The diet of hares consists of leaves, stems and rhizomes of dry and green grasses. They also eat herbaceous plants, cereals, berries, vegetables, wood and bark, seeds, grains, nuts and some fungi.
Like rabbits, caecotrophy the reingestion of faecal material from the caecum is a behaviour that is used by European hares in order to gain the maximum amount of nutrients from their food as possible. The preferred habitat of hares is open country with the presence of tussock or rocks to hide amongst. They are widespread in grasslands, woodlands, agriculture and urban areas of Victoria.
Foxes will hunt adult hares and leverets, while wedge-tail eagles are a major threat to adult hares and feral cats pose a major threat to leverets. Four species of nematodes, six species of coccidian, liver flukes and two species of dog tapeworms are all internal parasites that infect European hares in Australia. Several species of external parasites have also been observed on European hares in Australia including the European rabbit flea Spilopsyllus cuniculi the stickfast flea Echidnophaga myrmecobii , the lice Haemodipsus setoni and Haemodipsus lyriocephalus , and the mite Leporacarus gibbus.
Research has found that the more litters hares have, the smaller the litter size tends to be. Little is known about the breeding habits of European hares in Australia. European hares have an average 42 day gestation period but this ranges from days. At birth, leverets are fully furred, cm in length and weigh g. Their eyes are open at birth and are precocial, meaning they are able to move around soon after birth.
Leverets are born into a form and are hidden within dense vegetation. The mother will visit to suckle the young once every 24 hours. Young from the same litter will return to a central space to suckle. The home ranges of hares are considerably larger than those of rabbits, with hares travelling up to four kilometres. This is due to the greater mobility of hares compared to rabbits. Rabbits have a limited territory as they rely on their warren systems for shelter and protection; this means that they must eat the food around their warrens. Currently, European hares are limited to south-eastern Australia's temperate climate that replicates the climate of the European hares cool European origins.
Approximately per cent of leverets are estimated to die due to predators or natural causes. Hares begin to breed at about eight months old.
Rabbits have a very light skeleton in proportion to their body mass and are prone to orthopedic injury, therefore, careful handling is essential. It is recommended that your rabbit live indoors where he will become an integrated member of the family.
Following are several reasons they should not be housed outdoors:. Because they are prey animals, rabbits are adept at hiding illness. Observe him for any changes and be sure to see your veterinarian to avert a medical emergency.
Following is a list of health concerns that require a visit to your rabbit savvy veterinarian:. For his safety, you should keep your bunny in an enclosed space when you are away from home. They will likely refuse to go back into a cage when exercise time is over. If you must use a cage, dog crates work best; get the largest one you can accommodate. Rabbits are instinctual chewers; all dangerous or valuable items should be kept out of their reach.
Exercise pens also make great "fences" to block off or rap around prohibited areas. Rabbits do not have traction pads on the bottom of their feet like cats and dogs do. Carpeting provides excellent traction and will facilitate running and other dance-like play. The lower the pile, the better. Be sure your rabbit is not eating the carpeting. You mast keep your rabbit away from all electrical cords. They cannot distinguish wires from tree roots and electrocution is a real hazard.
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Wires should be covered with heavy-duty cord covers or PVC tubing. Using a puppy pen to block access works well.
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Your rabbit should have a litter box large enough for him to Lie down in. Although you can use products such as Carefresh or Yesterdays News; thick-sections of newspaper in a box filled with hay works best. Your rabbit should have plenty of bunny-friendly toys see websites at the end of this document. Clean cardboard is safe and appreciated for chewing, tearing, and digging on. Phonebooks are great for digging and shredding. Fresh water is best offered in a bowl; because it is easier to use, your rabbit will drink more.
Many plants are toxic to rabbits. To be on the safe side, do not allow your rabbit access to any houseplants. Rabbits require plenty of exercise for their physical health, mental well being and enjoyment. Be sure to bunny-proof his exercise area as well and be present to supervise so you can adjust any problem areas. A long carpeted hallway is a great place for a rabbit to kick up his heels.
For hay, pellets, and toys: Bunnyluv. Do you recommend any tests for older dogs? Does my pet need daily vitamins or supplements? What types of food can be dangerous to my dog? Is it a good idea to purchase pet insurance for my dog?
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