Urban bunnies live in smaller warrens and are lonelier, study finds ....

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R.I.P Little man ....
Oct 10, 2013
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down south

Living in the city can be cramped, with large numbers of urban dwellers living cheek by jowl in shoebox apartments.
Now it seems that urban animals like rabbits also suffer from similar pitfalls of a city lifestyle.

While rabbit populations in rural areas have been declining due to hunting and habitat loss, their numbers have apparently remained strong in the urban areas they inhabit.

However, these city rabbits live in far smaller and simpler warrens than their rural counterparts - the bunny equivalent of studio apartments.

Biologists also found the city rabbits also tended to live in smaller family groups.

So, just like for their human neighbours, living in a city is a much more lonely way of life than in the countryside.
The research was conducted by Dr Martin Plath and his student Madlen Ziege at Frankfurt University.

Miss Ziege said: 'Burrow densities increased along the rural-to-urban gradient, accompanied by a gradual shift from accumulated towards more evenly distributed burrows.

'Burrows became smaller and less complex with increasing degree of urbanity, and accordingly, also the number of rabbits inhabiting the same burrow decreased.'

They looked at 191 burrows in nine city parks, four suburban parks and three nearby rural sites.

By staking our burrows at night, using tagging and flushing out the inhabitants with trained ferrets, the researchers were able to build up a picture of how the rabbits in each area were living along with how many entrances there were to each warren.

They found that rabbits in more urban areas tended to live in simpler warrens with fewer entrances. There were also fewer rabbits in each warren.

However, the burrows were packed more tightly together.

The reason for this, say the researchers, could be because food supplies in cities are far more reliable than in the countryside.

Rabbit tend to form larger groups when food is in short supply.

It could also be because cities tend to be a couple of degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside, meaning the rabbits no longer need to live together in one warren to keep each other warm.

There may also be fewer predators in cities, meaning the rabbits need fewer escape routes from their homes.
This may be among the underlying reasons for rabbits moving to cities in the first place.

In their native Spain populations of European rabbits have declined by 20 per cent since 1975 while in Portugal they have fallen by 24 per cent.

In the UK there were thought to be up to 100 million rabbits living around the country but disease and habitat change has seen those numbers fall.

A Government survey in 1995 estimated that there were 37.5 million rabbits left, but new diseases such as rabbit haemorrhagic disease may have reduced their numbers further.

A recent study estimated that rabbit numbers had fallen by 48 per cent since 1993.

Miss Ziege said that the carefully maintained mosaic-like habitats that spring up around cities may provide a more stable environment for rabbits than in agricultural areas.
Speaking to New Scientist, Miss Ziege added: 'Cities are providing a constant and high food supply through human waste and deliberate feeding, as well as access to vegetation cover, such as shrubs.

'Many areas in modern cities are often structurally highly diverse and the urban rabbit population could be benefiting from this.'
Ok I was happily reading along until that part about sending in the trained ferrets.... :shame Seriously how safe are you ever gonna feel again in your burrow once it's been invaded by ferrets?!!!