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Easter bunnies at Skomer

Large number of bunnies: Skomer’s abundance of rabbits (pic. Richard Bowler)

SKOMER ISLAND is renowned for its breath-taking wildlife and stunning scenery, with people coming from all over the world to witness the waddling walk of a Puffin and hear the mysterious calls of the Manx Shearwaters.

With dolphin sightings from the cliffs, perching razorbills and the slender guillemot, the island really is a true wildlife haven to behold.

But what some visitors may often be surprised about when visiting Skomer is the abundance of rabbits on the island, and the diversity of colours within them. From an ordinary sandy brown right through to white collared rabbits and even black rabbits, the variety is intriguing.

Rabbits were introduced to Skomer around 700 years ago by the Normans, and Skomer and Coney Island was used as a rabbit farm. On Skomer, they have grown used to visitors and often graze at the edge of the path as you walk past.

Their communities consist of a dominant male with several females and subordinate males. Each community occupies a distinct tunnel system called a warren, often with several entrances. They prefer to make burrows beneath rock outcrops and walls, and in grass-free, tall, dense vegetation, represented on the island by bracken and brambles.

Skomer rabbits only produce one litter, usually in April, consisting of about three kittens (baby rabbits). The way in which Skomer rabbits are able to curtail their reproduction is the secret to their success in adapting to the small amount of space available on Skomer, as apposed to the mainland.

Rabbits have numerous positive effects for nature conservation on Skomer and they have a three main beneficial effects in maintaining Skomer’s wildlife diversity. Although Manx Shearwaters and Puffins can dig their own burrows, they will also use old rabbit burrows as well.

They also keep the vegetation low, as the rabbits allow plants to have access to light which increases the botanical diversity of the island. In good rabbit years, it is thought that less seabirds are predated upon by the islands top predators.

April is also a special time on the island for seabirds – Puffins in particular – as they will return to land where their courtship takes place. The bonus of staying overnight is that at this time of year, Puffins will often spend their days out at sea and then return to Skomer in the evenings, sometimes putting on a spectacular wheeling display in North Haven.

If you would like to book a stay on Skomer this spring and have a truly wild adventure, you can call 01656 724100.

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