Rabbit numbers in Ness at epidemic level

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Rabbit numbers in Ness have reached ‘epidemic levels’ says a crofter from the district who warns something has to be done to protect livelihoods and the machairs in Ness.

Kenny Macleod claims numbers have escalated to levels previously unseen in Ness and residents have to take action before it’s too late.

He said: “There are tens of thousands all over the whole of Ness and it’s got so bad that people can’t even plant anything. They are not just on the machairs and moors either as they are on the crofts and around the houses.

“Every croft is the same and there are so many more than I’ve ever seen. It has escalated out of control. They have tried culling their numbers in the past with people taken up for a week or two but it costs so much and they don’t seem to be denting the numbers.

“There are holes everywhere with the old football pitch a good example. Until eight or ten years ago we could use it all through the winter but now it’s unusable.

“Even the current pitch has rabbits on it every day and in a match, of course, we had that incident which stopped play.”

It was during a recent Ness senior match that a rabbit hole opened up inside the six-yard box during a match, forcing team substitute Donald Macsween to fill it with a spade to prevent players tripping and being injured.Kenny says Ness could take a look at the Island of Canna which was the scene of one of UK’s biggest rabbit culls, following a population explosion last year.

He continued: “Urras have been trying to look at options but the problem is the cost.

“I’ve been trying to find out how the Island of Canna funded their own cull where they culled 9000. In Canna I believe they were selling all the rabbits they culled to France for £1 a go, so that’s something we could consider trying.

“It’s been getting worse and worse each year and there are a lot of black rabbits in Ness too which is a sign it has reached epidemic levels.

“The next step has to be to try and take this forward with a meeting of everyone affected around the table. Everyone realises the problem but the cost is the stumbling block.”

A spokesperson for the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), who own the Island of Canna, said the cull was carried out for conservation reasons, with concerns reported by residents expressed that the rabbits were digging up Canna’s important habitats and environmental sites and there was even concern that they were disturbing archaeological remains.

The trust continued: “We undertook rabbit population control on Canna in early 2014, after it was estimated that the population had reached 16,000. There were concerns about the environmental damage caused, including suggestions that burrows had contributed to a landslide in Autumn, 2013.” Discussion on the issue continues in earnest.