I used to live in lots of dune habitats all across the UK, where I was an important part of life in the dunes: my grazing would keep grassland short and by digging my burrows, I would keep patches of sand bare and encourage sand movement through the dunes.
Rabbits used to be a very common sight in the coastal sand dunes of England and Wales, as rabbits are happy grazing and burrowing in the soft sandy soils. In the 1950s a disease called Myxomatosis killed huge numbers of rabbits very quickly, meaning that there were a lot less rabbits in the dunes. These sand dunes have become more and more stable, in part because there are less rabbits grazing and keeping vegetation growth in check. Dynamic Dunescapes is helping to encourage rabbit population numbers to grow again and is even reintroducing rabbits in some areas where they have disappeared, as they are an important part of keeping a sand dune system dynamic and diverse.
By munching on vegetation, rabbits keep plant growth fairly low, which can help some of our rare native plants flourish. By burrowing, they also keep bare sand moving through the dune system.
Rabbits are generally nocturnal, but will come out of their warren in daylight if it’s sunny and there aren’t too many people or dogs around. They can be spotted on the Sefton coast and Cumbrian coast, at Studland in Dorset, and across our sites in Wales at Anglesey and Gwynedd, Carmarthenshire and Swansea.
Dynamic Dunescapes will be conducting rabbit population surveys, creating new areas of bare sand for rabbits to create new burrows in, ensuring that other dune conservation activities stay away from rabbit burrows, and in some places, reintroducing rabbits where populations have disappeared.