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Species Spied: Rabbit

Overview

Species: Rabbit

A young rabbit is captured on camera trapScientific Name: Oryctolagus cuniculus

Family: Leporidae (rabbits and hares)

Rabbits are not in fact native to Britain, having been introduced here in the Middles Ages.

Today it they are very common and grazing rabbits are important for habitat maintenance. They are also a staple food source for many of our predators including foxes, mink, stoats, polecats, and wildcats. Badgers, weasels and buzzards prey on juvenile rabbits.

Click on the tabs above to find out more and to see NatureSpy photos and videos of this species.

Identification & behaviour

How to identify

Rabbits look similar to hares but they are smaller and have brown (rather than golden) eyes. Rabbits also hop whereas hares tend to walk; watch it here.

Behaviours you may see

Only females carry out the work of burrowing and separate doe (female) and buck (male) hierarchies are present in each group. Rabbits scent mark to reinforce hierarchy; this is called ‘chinning’ as their scent glands are on their chin.

To alert other rabbits of potential predators they thump their back legs on the ground and raise their tales. Given their numerous predators rabbits frequently check for danger, using their long ears and excellent field of vision; watch it here.

The rabbit is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List due to outbreaks of the myxomatosis disease in the 1950’s, but populations are now recovering. Myxomatosis disease outbreaks continue to occur occasionally and cameras traps can pick these up remotely; a healthy rabbit will give off ‘eye-shine’ while an infected rabbit will not. Over time, rabbit populations are evolving resistance to the disease.

Camera trap tips

Where to find rabbits

rabbit camera trapRabbits are widespread throughout Britain and are herbivorous, feeding on many types of vegetation. They particularly like areas such as small fields and hedgerows where there is some cover.

They live in a warren, a system of underground tunnels, and each warren may be home to a single pair or up to thirty rabbits. Rabbits do not often venture far from their warrens, and so can be found easily. These warrens also attract predators such as foxes and stoats.

Settings & timers

Rabbits are most active in the evening and at night but in quiet areas they may also be seen during the day. We captured one rabbit that seemed to have been up all night; watch it here.

The most important setting when placing your camera trap near a rabbit warren is the 'Interval'. If you leave the interval on a low setting (< 1-5 mins), it is likely you'll return to the camera with hundreds, even thousands of images or videos after just a few nights.

As mentioned above, rabbits tend to stick close to their warrens (and therefore relative safety), so it means there is always likely to be a rabbit hopping around close to your camera trap. Generally, keep the interval setting to 10 minutes or more to prevent lots of repeated captures; this is particularly important when baby rabbits ('kits') are beginning to emerge from the warren.

Following trails...

Rabbit's tracks are similar to but smaller than hare tracks (rabbits tracks: 2.5cm wide, 3.5cm long). Each paw leaves four indents with the hind paws leaving more elongated indents.

Their droppings are spherical, each about 1cm across, and found in dense collections.

Photos

Rabbit camera trap photos

Videos

Rabbit camera trap videos

References and more information:

Rabbit – The Mammal Society