Monday, 16 May 2016

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit!

Doe with nesting material
I came across a very busy rabbit while out doing a bird survey the other morning. She was collecting large mouthfuls of grass so as to create a nest at the bottom of a newly dug hole, called a “stop”. She will then line it with hair plucked from her own body.

If conditions allow, rabbits will breed throughout the year and can produce a litter of 3-7 young (known as kittens) per month. The young kittens are born blind, deaf and almost hairless, unlike the young of Brown Hare which are born all singing and dancing and ready to go! The kitten’s eyes open at around 10 days and by about day 16 they will start to venture out of the stop, and begin eating solid food. They are weaned by about 21-25 days old, by which time their mother will already have mated and be expecting another litter.

As for the young, well a male or buck rabbit can mate at 4 months old and does can become pregnant at just 3.5 months of age.

Now for a bit of fun (farmers turn away!). A clever mathematician sat down to work out that a single female rabbit will have 184,597,433,860 descendants in just seven years. Translated into words, that is - one hundred eighty-four billion, five hundred & ninety-seven million, four hundred & thirty-three thousand, eight hundred & sixty!!

OK farmers – you can turn back now! What the mathematician did not do of course is factor in all the different ways in which rabbits can come to an early death. Many predators will regularly dine on rabbit, while Myxomatosis still takes its toll and large numbers get squished on our roads. If it wasn’t for these reasons along with many, many others, you can see that we would literally be knee deep in the little critters!

Despite all of this, I found myself secretly wishing my particular busy little doe, the best of luck as I went on my way.

She seemed to be in quite a hurry to get the job done!!

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