Emergence behaviour of rabbits, Oryctolagus cuniculus, in Central Otago, New Zealand


  • Landcare Research New Zealand Ltd., PO Box 31-011, Christchurch, New Zealand


The characteristic emergence behaviour of a rabbit population in Central Otago, New Zealand, involves a steady rise in the number of rabbits active throughout the afternoon to a peak near sunset. This differs from populations in Great Britain and Australia, where emergence occurs later and is more rapid. Young rabbits emerged slightly later than adults and were more susceptible to disturbances. Slightly earlier emergence by male rabbits, particularly between May and September, was possibly related to the increased levels of territoriality and social interaction just before and during the early stages of the breeding season. Three emergence indices (25% of the population feeding, 50% of the population emerged, and maximum number of rabbits emerged) were significantly correlated with season. Rabbits emerged earliest before sunset in winter and spring and latest in autumn. Daily variation in emergence times was considerable and was related to weather factors such as temperature and wind direction. A greater level of diurnal activity in New Zealand rabbit populations than in those in Great Britain and Australia is possibly associated with lower levels of diurnal predation in New Zealand.