The numbers of wild rabbits and hares in Britain are falling dramatically. A new study has revealed that the number of rabbits has gone down by 48% and mountain hares have dropped by 43% in less than 20 years. The number of foxes is also going down although the deer population is up, as Jasper Copping reported in the Telegraph.
The figures come from the only study of its kind, which gauges the nationwide fortunes of the most commonly seen mammals found in the wild in Britain. The results show vastly differing fortunes for the nine species across the countryside.
The research, published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research, has involved annual monitoring of 1,000 square miles (2,600 square kilometres) over the past 18 years. Each year, volunteers survey the same square kilometre, picked at random from a map, over two days during the spring and early summer, and record every creature they encounter.
The biggest fall, in rabbits, coincides with the spread of a fatal condition, rabbit haemorrhagic disease, for which the first recorded cases in the wild occurred the year before the period covered by the research. The virus has been described as the biggest threat to species since the myxomatosis outbreak of the 1950s.
The researchers also suggest that predators, such as buzzards, could be a factor in the declining numbers.
The most stable population has been that of the brown hare, up just one per cent, although there were marked regional differences, with a 50 per cent fall in north west England but an increased of 70 per cent in the east Midlands.
The mountain variety, however, which is confined to upland areas, has been in sharp decline, due to habitat loss and changing land use.
To read the entire article, you can visit http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/10405933/Deer-numbers-soaring-while-rabbit-hare-and-fox-fall.html