The Rabbits of Dunkettle
You’ve definitely seen them. The rabbits on the roundabout at Dunkettle have been there for as long as we can remember. They are a staple feature of the local area and quite interesting.
The European rabbit, (Oryctolagus cuniculus) or coinín in Irish, is a non-native species here in Ireland. It is thought that they were introduced in the 12th century by the Normans and have since ‘bred like rabbits’ right across the island of Ireland. The Normans kept them for a time in enclosed warrens to use them as a food supply, but they soon escaped and populated the entire island! Rabbits are now seen across Ireland and have even been introduced to many of our islands.
- European Rabbits are herbivorous in nature and survive by grazing on grasses and weedy wildflowers.
- European rabbits are extremely social animals and thus they live in huge communities.
- European rabbits secrete a liquid from the glands under their chins, which is spread to their surroundings to mark their territory.
- European rabbits reach sexual maturity between 3 and a 1/2 to 4 months of age. Gestation takes 30 days and litters hold 6 kittens on average. These bunnies will continue to breed until they are 6!
Whilst driving on the main road out of Cork City, Rabbits can be seen everywhere! Especially around the Dunkettle roundabout. Where there is prey (in this case rabbits), there are also predators. The Dunkettle area is home to many predator species who feed on rabbits. Just about everything will eat a rabbit, from Buzzards to Foxes, Feral Cats, Badgers and even Herons!
Although Rabbits are nice to look at and are considered cute and cuddly by many, they are a non-native species here in Ireland. They impact our economy, through the consumption of agricultural products and are thought to have one of the largest economic impacts of any introduced animal in Ireland (Kelly, et al., (2013). According to the Irish Hare survey of 2006/2007, there exists a negative relationship between the number of hares seen and the abundance of rabbits (Reid et al., 2007). Rabbit populations are likely to impact Irish hare populations in a multitude of ways; from the spreading of diseases to competing for food resources.
When you see a rabbit in your garden, on the road or in Dunkettle, make sure to report the observation to the National Biodiversity Data Centre at https://records.biodiversityireland.ie/start-recording.
Written by Luke Myers
Kelly, J., Tosh, D., Dale, K., and Jackson, A., (2013) The economic cost of invasive and non-native species in Ireland and Northern Ireland. A report prepared for the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and National Parks and Wildlife Service as part of Invasive Species Ireland.
Reid, N., Dingerkus, K., Montgomery, W.I., Marnell, F., Jeffrey, R., Lynn, D., Kingston, N. & McDonald, R.A., (2007) Status of hares in Ireland. Irish Wildlife Manuals, No. 30. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dublin, Ireland.