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Thread: How common are myxomatosis and VHD in the UK?

  1. #1

    How common are myxomatosis and VHD in the UK?

    Hello everyone.

    In several discussions on a French forum I frequent, people lament the fact that myxomatosis and VHD have absolutely decimated populations of rabbits and hares in France. Rabbits in particular were the mainstay of French hunters until the advent of myxomatosis, and there are clearly areas where they never returned. We've had myxomatosis in the UK, but we still seem to have loads of rabbits. I don't really see why British rabbits would have become more resistant to the disease than French rabbits though.

    Can anyone shed any light on this, and do you still have severe outbreaks of the disease that wipe out rabbit populations in your area?

  2. #2
    I grew up in North Essex and farmed a lot of rabbits as recently as 10 years ago. Some other farmers didn't vaccinate against mixy and occassionally had all stock wiped out. There's plenty of it about.....I suspect we have less shooting pressure on rabbits in a lot of areas, the french as you say had rabbits as a mainstay, that hasn't been the case here for years.

    Will

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Pine Marten View Post
    I don't really see why British rabbits would have become more resistant to the disease than French rabbits though.
    made from sterner stuff!!!

  4. #4
    I have been shooting for over forty years, and I have noticed a decline in the rabbit population in that time. It does seem to go from peak to trough. This year on a permission of mine I had only seen 4 rabbits from xmas until last month. But since then I have seen about ten. I know there is more about then you see, but I have seen very little if any evidence of them up until now.

  5. #5
    I have shot rabbits in Bedale and come away with as many as 90 in 3 hours, year after same time we had 38 this was both through the day time. Myxy was at one end of the moor but not at the other. The largest killer one year was snow, after it melted there were literally thousands dead with starvation. Places I have shot that mixy has had hold the population has always returned strong within a couple of years. I also find more evidence each year of rabbits surviving leaving bad scarring round the eyes. One place at Overton near York I used to shoot one half of the land got mixy but the other half kept clean and the side that suffered the disease had a population boom after the outbreak.

  6. #6
    I was thinking how clean it was round here this year with lots of the little fluffy fella's about compared with last 2 years, however my permissions in Devon have had it bad and not a bunny in sight, go figure

  7. #7
    Myxi has been endemic here for very many years and i can usually find affected rabbits at any time of year, every year. Sometimes it is a more virulent strain (i think there are about 5 different strains) which vary in severity.
    VHD crops up pretty well every year now but as usual in patches as it burns itself out very quickly. Generally the first you know is that the rabbits have disappeared. Despite myxi, VHD and the terrible weather last summer they are here in reasonable numbers again.
    They are truly remarkable creatures, surviving everything that nature and man throws at them.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Pine Marten View Post
    Hello everyone.

    In several discussions on a French forum I frequent, people lament the fact that myxomatosis and VHD have absolutely decimated populations of rabbits and hares in France. Rabbits in particular were the mainstay of French hunters until the advent of myxomatosis, and there are clearly areas where they never returned. We've had myxomatosis in the UK, but we still seem to have loads of rabbits. I don't really see why British rabbits would have become more resistant to the disease than French rabbits though.

    Can anyone shed any light on this, and do you still have severe outbreaks of the disease that wipe out rabbit populations in your area?
    The reason that there are so few bunnies in France is that over there they shoot anything that moves. I have a place in Brittany, and it saddens me to see how little wildlife there is about in countryside that should be crawling with furry creatures...

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Paddy_SP View Post
    The reason that there are so few bunnies in France is that over there they shoot anything that moves. I have a place in Brittany, and it saddens me to see how little wildlife there is about in countryside that should be crawling with furry creatures...
    Well Britanny is a region that has some severe problems due to intensive pig and poultry farming. In the end, much of this stuff comes down to the impact of agricultural practices. As for shooting everything that moves, I'm currently finding out a lot about the ins and outs of running French hunting associations, and it depends very much on the area and culture of the members. Two things are at play here: first of all, there are quite simply twice as many hunters of all descriptions as there are in the UK. Yes it's a country twice as big, but the population isn't equally spread out. There are vast swathes where no-one lives.

    Secondly, it's similar to the US in that there is a public right to hunt, and some degree of expectation amongst some (typically the older generation) that this means a right to bag some game. I suppose it's not dissimilar to people here who want to see lots of birds on a driven shoot. The difference is that they don't have the money to throw at it. Year-round keepering, pest control, feeding and so on is very expensive. So the mainstay of French hunters used to be rabbits, hares and partidges. Partridges were decimated by intensive agriculture, same as in the UK. Rabbit populations don't appear to have ever recovered from myxy, and possibly a contribution factor is that they are shot before they have a chance. But it's not like we cut them much slack in the UK either. Hares appear to be present in more places than rabbits are, which I find remarkable.

    The result has been that over the years, the main focus of French hunting has become driven big game, especially boar, whose populations have exploded. As a result, within the associations, there are typically few people with any interest at all in small game. Given that these are run along democratic principles, not enough people vote to spend time, money and effort on helping small game populations. So they end up doing appalling things like releasing pheasants the day before trhe season opens to provide their members with something to shoot. No-one's happy with this, but it's all they can agree on.

    I'd like to stress that there are also numerous examples of areas where hunters behave admirably and do sterling work. It's just that the setup allows the less enlightened faction to block the efforts of others in some places.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Pine Marten View Post
    Well Britanny is a region that has some severe problems due to intensive pig and poultry farming. In the end, much of this stuff comes down to the impact of agricultural practices. As for shooting everything that moves, I'm currently finding out a lot about the ins and outs of running French hunting associations, and it depends very much on the area and culture of the members. Two things are at play here: first of all, there are quite simply twice as many hunters of all descriptions as there are in the UK. Yes it's a country twice as big, but the population isn't equally spread out. There are vast swathes where no-one lives.

    Secondly, it's similar to the US in that there is a public right to hunt, and some degree of expectation amongst some (typically the older generation) that this means a right to bag some game. I suppose it's not dissimilar to people here who want to see lots of birds on a driven shoot. The difference is that they don't have the money to throw at it. Year-round keepering, pest control, feeding and so on is very expensive. So the mainstay of French hunters used to be rabbits, hares and partidges. Partridges were decimated by intensive agriculture, same as in the UK. Rabbit populations don't appear to have ever recovered from myxy, and possibly a contribution factor is that they are shot before they have a chance. But it's not like we cut them much slack in the UK either. Hares appear to be present in more places than rabbits are, which I find remarkable.

    The result has been that over the years, the main focus of French hunting has become driven big game, especially boar, whose populations have exploded. As a result, within the associations, there are typically few people with any interest at all in small game. Given that these are run along democratic principles, not enough people vote to spend time, money and effort on helping small game populations. So they end up doing appalling things like releasing pheasants the day before trhe season opens to provide their members with something to shoot. No-one's happy with this, but it's all they can agree on.

    I'd like to stress that there are also numerous examples of areas where hunters behave admirably and do sterling work. It's just that the setup allows the less enlightened faction to block the efforts of others in some places.
    Yes, you're right - there are so many people who shoot over there - almost every rural male will do so (often whilst drunk), that not much survives. We have almost no intensive agriculture (unless you count the big sheds) in my part of Brittany (the area south of Morlaix). I'm reliably informed that if someone gets hurt whilst on an 'organised' shoot, the emergency services will not attend, due to the number of their staff who've been accidentally shot in the past. Instead, the injured party has to be taken to them...

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