Wildlife Confidence: Rabbit running (Photo: Russell Sivory)
By Molly Toll, Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside Wildlife Trust.
Today I had an exciting moment when I found myself face to face with a brown rabbit.
I was at Lut Meadows Nature Reserve in Sefton, Merseyside, just off the end of the M58, well known for its thriving bird population, especially wetland waders like the lapwing and many species of owl.
In fact, Lut Meadows are great for all different types of wildlife – including mammals.
The brown rabbit is the cousin of the larger rabbit.
Rabbits have golden brown fur, a pale belly, black ear tips, and a white tail.
Usually if you find a rabbit (or a rabbit that sees you), it will charge away from you across a field and disappear in a flash.
Hares are Britain’s fastest land mammal, capable of reaching speeds of up to 45 miles per hour.
Once they hit tall grass, they are nearly impossible to track, as their fur helps them blend into the brown and yellow of the surrounding grasses.
The rabbit I saw was just a baby–barely bigger than my hand–and I wouldn’t have known he was there had it not been for him wandering in front of me.
I must have disturbed his sleeping place and he opened a gate.
It seemed late in the year that I came across such a small mammal, but rabbits can give birth to up to four tons a year.
Unlike baby rabbits, which are born hairless and blind, newborn rabbits (called cranes) have fur, open eyes and can run within a few minutes.
This crane did not escape and instead returned to the tall grass, flattening himself to hide while waiting for my mother.
At sunset, my mother would return to feed her and any siblings who might have been hiding nearby.
Wild rabbits do not dig or make burrows in the ground. Instead, they live entirely above ground, sleeping in any convenient place.
The best time to see rabbits is usually in the early morning or evening, and it is best to leave dogs at home, as they will scare rabbits, even from a distance.
Lut Meadows is the perfect habitat for this shy mammal thanks to its mosaic of grasslands and meadows surrounded by farmers’ fields and hedgerows.
There used to be a lot of hares but unfortunately their numbers are declining nationwide.
Changes in farming practices have reduced food availability at different times of the year, affecting breeding successes and making them more vulnerable to predation.
Another problem is illegal rabbit tracking, where people use dogs to hunt and kill hares.
The corpse is left, and the gladiators move on to another rabbit.
The odds are tough for the little Lunt’s rabbit, but she’s in a good location.
The Lancashire Wildlife Trust works hard to create and restore beautiful habitats that link together, so wild animals can travel safely and get enough to eat.
They work closely with rural crime squads as well, in an effort to stop unnecessary cruelty and crime against wildlife in our nature reserves.
If you see or suspect rabbit trails, never challenge suspects.
Only if it’s safe to do so, record their descriptions, dogs, vehicles, and registration numbers.
Report the incident to the police either online or via 101, and let the landlord know.
To learn more about Lut Meadows, including parking opening dates, visit the website over here.
The Wildlife Trust in Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside is dedicated to the protection and promotion of Lancashire wildlife, seven boroughs in Greater Manchester and four in Merseyside, all located north of the River Mersey.
It operates approximately 40 nature reserves and 20 local nature reserves covering acres of forests, wetlands, highlands, and meadows, and has 29,000 members and more than 1,200 volunteers.
To become a member of the Trust, go to website.
For more wildlife columns, click here.
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