Predator Prey Relationship

Unbalanced predator prey relationship - millions of rabbits, no grass and no predators.

Predator Prey Relationship: Rabbits need predators

This page draws valuable lessons from the information already presented here: Predator Prey.

In review: By 1938 in Australia, the lack of rabbit predators had resulted in a severely unbalanced predator prey relationship - no grass, no predators, and millions of feral rabbits.

Wherever rabbits live, they must also coexist with predators that will hunt and kill them as intended by Nature, or the ecosystem will very rapidly become unbalanced.

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This is not a bad thing, it just IS. It is very healthy for a colony of rabbits, as long as the grass-predator-prey relationship remains balanced.

More on Predation from Wiki

Lessons for Pet Rabbit Owners

The lives of wild European rabbits – the same species as our domestic rabbits - are not comfortable, most of the time. By 8 months of age in the wild, over half of all weaned rabbits have died at the paws or talons of predators. That is their role within the ecosystem – no wrong has been done to them.

  • Don’t feel bad about this, since the predator prey relationship serves both the predator and the prey. The hunger in the stomach of the predator is satiated, and the colony of rabbits as a collective unit is improved while still maintaining or increasing their numbers. It truly is a win-win for both.

  • What this also means is that there is no innate right to life for a rabbit, since their lot is to feed others. This is possibly why some rabbits simply panic and die before they can feel the hot breath of the predator. 

  • Sometimes colonies of feral rabbits are out of place and should be purged (not “rescued”). The feral rabbits roaming Australia are an extreme example of this. (See the picture above.) Numbering in the hundreds of millions, there is no way to “rescue” all of these. Nor would the rescue of 100+ million feral rabbits respect their role in life as prey animals.

  • Outside of Europe, where the European rabbit is native and has lived in balance within the ecosystem for millennia, feral rabbit colonies, such as a large colony on the campus of the University of Victoria, are considered invasive species. As cute as he is, the little bunny below does not belong in the wild in British Columbia, Canada. 

How to tear up the countryside - release rabbits into the wild!How to tear up the countryside - release rabbits into the wild!
  • In the big scheme, a very few rabbits are granted the privilege of pethood

  • Pet rabbits indeed give great joy and companionship to their owners. Nevertheless, one must not assume that all rabbits should be pet rabbits or house rabbits. They aren’t and they shouldn't be. The vast majority of rabbits live wild and fearful lives as prey animals. The vast majority of domestic rabbits, while living lives free of fear, are livestock, filling the role of prey animal in symbiosis with humans.

  • Hard as it is sometimes to accept, it is ethical, and an honor to the rabbit, to utilize it as a food source if you so choose or need to do so. 

  • Those rabbits accorded pet status are no longer considered a ‘food source,’ and we at Raising-Rabbits have never recommended eating pet rabbits. This is because you enter a unilateral agreement of sorts to take care of a pet rabbit in exchange for companionship. (If you were starving, your survival would take precedence over the survival of a rabbit.)

    The care and protection of the herd in exchange for the use of a few of the weaker or surplus animals while maintaining balance in the predator prey relationship is a classic case of a symbiotic relationship. This is as it should be.

Lessons for Rabbit Breeders Relative to the Rabbit Predator Prey Relationship

Rabbit breeders generally have very noble reasons for raising the rabbits that they eat

  • It is important to many to know where their meat comes from, that it is not pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, and the animals crammed into concentrated living quarters. These same rabbit breeders may also obtain beef or pork from a mom-and-pop farm where the animals have been treated just as courteously. 

    This is how anyone can protest their perception of the meat industry without endangering their own health through a B12-deficient vegan diet plan.

  • Therefore they treat their rabbits kindly and with honor, and butcher them painlessly and humanely when the time comes.

The wise management of your rabbitry population mimics Nature

Culling the infirm and the weak improves the herd by resulting in healthier, stronger progeny and rabbits that may overcome their fears more successfully.

At the same time, culling does not necessarily reduce overall herd numbers. The rabbit’s amazing reproductive capabilities ensure plenty of offspring that are stronger and more healthy than the ones you have culled or eaten.

  • Respect the natural fears of your rabbits. The fear of fear or anxiety is innate to a rabbit and cannot be entirely bred out, though it can perhaps be improved upon through good animal husbandry practices.

When weaning litters, make the changes in your kits' lives in increments for the purpose of reducing anxiety

  • Wean by removing the doe.
  • Wait a day or two between each new change in your weanlings’ lives.
  • If a single kit is slated to go to a new home, house it by itself for a day or two in your rabbitry before making the transfer to the new situation.
  • Rabbit breeders don’t often see rabbits or bunnies keel over from fright (I’ve never seen it), but incremental weaning is still important as it can even out the stresses in a weanling's life, thereby reducing the risk of fatal diarrhea.

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