RABBIT AND HARE SURVEY
Why rabbits and hares?
Worcestershire’s Lagomorphs – our rabbits and hares – could be in trouble.
National assessments suggest recent declines in the abundance of rabbits, with indications that these may be linked to disease; there are reports that a rabbit virus may have started to infect brown hares; and both species are probably affected by agricultural intensification.
The abundance data are far from perfect, so please sign up to our volunteer-based survey and monitoring project to improve our understanding of the local picture.
Please email Charlie to sign up!
We’ve tried to keep the approach nice and simple both to encourage gathering of records, but additionally to establish a repeatable approach so that we can compare results from different sites and monitor any changes in future. To achieve these objectives, we’ve come up with two complementary approaches to record brown hares and rabbits. Below is a description for each technique.
1. ‘Casual but Clever’ gathering of all Lagomorph records
As part of our big push to improve lagomorph data for 2019, please send in any records of rabbits and hares from anywhere in Worcestershire throughout the year. These can be live sightings, road casualties or field signs. However, try to be ‘clever’ about how recording effort is spread geographically. This type of information provides us with simple presence data, so we don’t really need lots of records from a single monad (1 km square).
The record needs to include: species, type of record (road casualty, live sighting etc.), date, time, location (grid reference if possible) and contact details. Basic habitat information would be useful too.
These casual records should be submitted using the online form on our website.
2. Dusk or Dawn Lagomorph Walks with effort recorded
This technique involves walking a length of footpath or country lane (transect) and recording the number of rabbits and hares that are seen over a given time and distance. This will give a measure of abundance. In addition, recording the date, route and timing will give us a repeatable method so that we can compare our results among different places and years.
- Rabbits and hares are especially active around dusk and dawn, so transects should start within 15 minutes of sunrise and 30 minutes before sunset. Sunrise and sunset times can be found at timeanddate.com.
- Surveys should begin in March. Although surveys can be carried out throughout the spring and summer, by midsummer the vegetation in crop fields and hay meadows might become too tall and it may be too difficult to spot any animals.
- Routes should follow public footpaths and small country lanes so the route can be easily repeated. A minimum of 1 km should be walked.
- Record start time and finish time.
- Record grid reference/GPS co-ordinates for start point and end point and locations of any rabbits and hares seen. If you don’t have a GPS some smart phones have them or there are various free downloadable Apps such as: OSLocate
- Optional: Please draw a sketch of your route on the survey form. Alternatively, plot your route using ‘add path’ tool in Google Earth or your favourite route plotting app. Save as a jpg or send us a screen shot. Alternatively, photocopy an OS map, highlight your route and scan it back in or simply draw in pencil on a map and take a photo on your phone and email it to us. Individual rabbit and hare sightings can be annotated onto maps.
- Simple habitat details should also be recorded such as: arable field (crop type if identifiable), grazed pasture; hay meadow, managed amenity grassland (park, golf course etc).
These results should be filled in on the rabbits and hare transect (live sightings) form.
Sometimes it’s not possible to get a good view – hares can sometimes be a little ‘flighty’ and may disappear into the distance rather quickly, or alternatively they might hunker down close to the ground and try to be invisible. So it might be worthwhile familiarising yourself with brown hare and rabbit characteristics – we don’t have mountain hares in Worcestershire, not even on the top of the Malvern hills. Take a look at these Mammal Society pages for help: Brown Hare and Rabbit.
Do’s and Don’ts
When selecting your transect routes, please choose places dominated by open farmland where lagomorphs are likely to be most visible. And remember that we are just as interested in those places where rabbits and hares are scarce or absent as we are keen to record where they are common.
The dawn or dusk walking surveys should not be carried out in fog or heavy rain. Binoculars will be useful to make sure animals are correctly identified as rabbits or hares. It may be necessary to approach an animal slowly to ensure a correct identification.
As with all surveys, the results will be of greater value if we have a big sample size, so we hope our members will be willing to do several walks in different places spread across the county.
Why not use transect surveys as an opportunity for sociable dusky ‘Lagomorph walks’ in the vicinity of country pubs? It would be more interesting and more fun to co-ordinate with other participants to do several transects on the same evening and then meet up in a pub afterwards to compare notes.
PLEASE TAKE TIME TO READ THE SEPARATE RISK ASSESSMENT DOCUMENT
What to do if you find a sick hare
Worcestershire has recently been added to the list of counties with confirmed cases of New Variant Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHDV2). If you find a sick or dead brown hare, please email photos (including of its head and rear) to Alex Barlow (Alex.Barlow@apha.gsi.gov.uk) who is the nearest member of a team working the current causes of hare deaths.