SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • wild rabbit;
  • restocking;
  • Sarcoptes scabiei;
  • sarcoptic mange;
  • Oryctolagus cuniculus;
  • parasite introductions

Abstract

The European wild rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus has been recently reclassified as Near Threatened in its natural range in the Red List of Endangered Species by the IUCN, and a huge conservation effort is being undertaken in Spain for this keystone species. Restocking is a frequent measure for wild rabbit population reinforcements and it is also part of predator conservation programmes. However, it can have a negative influence on the resident rabbit population when it is not carried out carefully. In our work, using a model selection procedure based on a theoretic information approach, we analyze which factors favor the presence of sarcoptic mange in some wild rabbit populations in Catalonia (north-eastern Spain), as well as the trend of rabbit abundance in affected and non-affected hunting estates. Presence of mange depends on animal abundance and on restocking numbers (22.09%). From the mean rabbit abundance (30 rabbits hunted km−2) and the mean restocking rate (18 rabbits km−2), the probability of being affected increased in nearly 5% when the restocking rate increased in one unit. Rabbit abundance (2001–2007) depends on the presence of mange and on the effect of the year (23.86%), and clearly declined in the hunting estates with mange, whereas abundance is maintained in mange-free zones. Our results indicate that a sanitary control is necessary when restocking wild rabbit populations. Furthermore, restocking is shown to be a potential way of introducing pathogens to resident populations, especially under conditions of high density.