The mild winter has extended the breeding cycles meaning more rabbits were born at the turn of the year and during spring.

“In my home county of Suffolk I have never seen as many rabbits as I have this year for as far back as I can remember and I have lived here for over 25 years,” commented professional rabbit controller, Simon Whitehead.

Roy McCulloch has also been managing rabbit populations for over 30 years in Yorkshire: “The number of young rabbits I have on the land this year is without a doubt the highest I’ve ever seen.”

He continued: “The current DEFRA rabbit population estimate is 45 million, which is rising by 2% a year. Comparatively, between 1850 and 1952 the rabbit population was said to be in excess of 60 million with up to 100 million caught annually. Myxomatosis then struck with around 600,000 survived. In just over fifty years the rabbit has come back to 75% pre-myxomatosis numbers so it is no wonder we are noticing the population and damage much more.”

Pest controller, Ian Barnett from East Anglia, concurred: “With high numbers feeding out on open ground, shooting has been bountiful. It was feared that the deluges we saw in late July, which pushed the rabbits to ground, would result in extensive outbreaks of myxomatosis. So far, though some myxomatosis has broken out in isolated areas, rabbits seem more resistant to it now.”

The rest of this story will appear in the 23 August edition of ST.