Page 3, 26th February 1954

26th February 1954
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Page 3, 26th February 1954 — NATURE NOTES By
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NATURE NOTES By

JULIAN HOLROYD

RABBITS ARE ON THE WARPATH

THIS is the time of year when we I become more than usually rabbitconscious. There is new young growth. which is just what they fancy after their stunted winter fare, and nothing is safe from them. We go round our vegetable gardens searching for the holes where they squeeze in; we strengthen all possible defences; we encourage our dogs and cats to chase or catch the intrudersand then a quite unfrightened baby rabbit is found in a hedge, or an incredibly innocent-tooking family is unearthed, huddling together. nose to nose, in a snugly-designed burrow, and those who have been loudest in their vociferations against these pests suddenly begin to find excuses for not "killing the small, blunt-nosed bundles of grey fur.

But pests they are. There is no blinking the fact. Good sheep grazing is destroyed by them and pasturage so fouled that cattle will not feed there. Heather is ruined and hedges are undermined. Root crops have their leaves nibbled off and green vegetables are eaten while they are young and succulent. And as for trees-one has only to look at an orchard of newly-planted apple trees into which rabbits have nosed their way to realise the damage they can do and the quantity of potential fruit of which they can deprive us.

We do well to remind ourselves of all this when reading of the effects of myxomatosis, the disease that is now killing off so many thousands of these animals, and killing them in what appears to be so distressing a way, their heads swelling up, their eyes inflamed so that they cannot see, and their noses discharging and spreadine the deadly infection which seems already to have spread over south-east England and to be creeping along to the west and north.

It is unlikely that it will exterminate them altogether. Rabbits are so prolific that they are bound to go on breeding, and possibly immunising their babies. So a new and probably stronger race of pests may spring um constituting a further problem to which nobody at present seems to know the answer.

To think that rabbits came miser here if not with at least about the same time as William the Conqueror. It was indeed 1066 and All That!




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