Rabbit - Oryctolagus cuniculus


Biology and Ecology: Wild European rabbits commonly have grey-brown back fur and a white-grey belly, but other colours can vary from sandy light brown to ginger, black and occasionally white., Males and females are similar in size and appearance. Adults weigh between 1–2.25 kg and range in length from 35–45 cm. 

Breeding Wild rabbits can begin breeding at four months old and may produce five or more litters in a year, with up to five young per litter. they can breed at any time of year when food is in good supply. 

Habitat: Rabbits construct large warrens up to 3 m deep and 45 m long. Warren complexes are generally larger in more open country. Warrens provide cover and protection from predators and extreme temperatures, and allow rabbits to live in open grasslands, grazed pasture and arid land. 

Diet: Rabbits are herbivores that eat a wide variety of plants, including crops, roots, pastures, young trees and vines. They prefer soft, short and succulent plants such as grasses and herbs. They can graze plants to ground level and may consume up to one-third of their own body weight daily 

Current Australian distribution: Rabbits are widely distributed in Australia and occur in a variety of habitats, including urban and coastal areas, agricultural areas, deserts, natural forests, planted forests, grass and rangelands, disturbed habitats and scrublands. They prefer areas of low vegetation; well-drained, deep sandy soils where they can build warrens; and refuge such as scrub, blackberry bushes or fallen logs. 

Economic Impacts: Rabbits cost Australian agriculture $206 million in production losses each year. Rabbit grazing can prevent regeneration of seedlings and reduce crop yields, as well as increase competition for feed with livestock. This may affect the carrying capacity of livestock on a property, resulting in lower weight gain, lower wool production, reduced births and higher mortality during drought. In general, about 9-12 rabbits/ ha is equivalent to one DSE (dry sheep equivalent). 

Environmental Impacts: Rabbits directly compete with native wildlife for food and shelter. There are at least 156 threatened species of native plants and animals that may be adversely affected by this competition and the land degradation caused by rabbits. They also impact on native plants by ringbarking, grazing and browsing, and preventing revegetation of seedlings. Their digging and browsing leads to a loss of vegetation cover which can result in slope instability and soil erosion. 

Social Impacts: Rabbits also damage lawns, gardens, golf courses, sportsgrounds, and regional parkland reserves, and may undermine buildings, garages and sheds.

Wild rabbits also carry RHDV and the kalhisi virus which can be transmitted to pet rabbits