Rabbit populations seem to be on the increase and some areas now host sizeable numbers. I can remember, as a boy, huge Rabbit Warren complexes that held a large quantity of rabbits of mixed age groups. The deliberate introduction of the disease myxomatosis, which reached this country in the mid fifties, however, all but wiped them out. The larger warrens were hit hard as, by hosting so many hot and furry bodies, they proved to be an ideal, almost centrally heated, home for one of the disease’s main vectors which was a flea fond of living in Rabbits’ ears. The crowded rabbit numbers enabled the disease to be spread rapidly.
Some few rabbits survived by either contracting the disease and recovering or by not contracting it in the first place due to genetic resistance. Numbers built from these survivors but their breeding patterns seemed to change, in my area at least. You no longer see the large warrens but rabbits rather now breed in smaller numbers and widespread locations such as in a bush, under a stump, in a hedgerow and so on. In those parts of the country where double sided stone “hedges” are used to separate fields they have even resorted to hooking some of the soil hedge filling out and nesting in the ensuing cavity.
This can often destabilize the wall and cause its ultimate collapse. In this day and age of expensive manual labour these collapses are often not remedied by rebuilding but rather by replacement with a barbed wire fence – much to the detriment of all the other life forms that depended on these “hedges” for shelter. Although myxomatosis outbreaks still occur, especially when rabbit numbers have flourished in an area, the frequency of these outbreaks does seem to be declining possibly due to a build up in genetic resistance over the years.
I should stress here that these comments are based solely on personal observations in areas with which I am familiar and not on any scientific studies, so I am sure that there will be areas of the country relatively unaffected and where the situation may be entirely different. Suffice to say that in this area numbers do seem to be creeping up and it is some time since I saw numbers of rabbits suffering from this most horrible disease.
Disease apart, rabbits do seem to have drawn one of life’s shorter straws. They just seem to be so good to eat that anything, including man, that eats meat has Rabbit right up there near the top of the wishlist. Even creatures that do not normally depend on meat will tuck in if they get the chance as any study of what is feeding on rabbit roadkill will show you.
As a result of this rabbits have an inherently “twitchy” nature, as they are constantly trying to avoid predation, and are not often the easiest of potential photographic subjects to approach. On some Nature Reserves they become accustomed to a throughput of people and you can sometimes approach quite closely, but otherwise they are more difficult to photograph than you would expect. Anyone who “Pooh, poohs” rabbit photos as “Oh it’s just a rabbit” has probably never tried it themselves.
If it happens to you then send them packing and tell them to come back when they’ve got some decent shots of their own to crow about. Most of the time when a rabbit is photographable it will be sat on a stretch of grass eating and, to be honest, does not provide the most aesthetically pleasing images. Try to get them “doing something”. Anything other than just chewing grass. They probably wont respond to any input from you other than by running away so all you can do is be patient and wait your moment.
Good luck or, maybe, “may the skill be with you”.