Rabbit population currently on upswing throughout area

Ashley, Ohio – If you enjoyed good rabbit hunting last year here
in Ohio, there is no reason to expect anything less come the Nov. 7

In fact, says state biologist and beagle-man Nathan Stricker,
most rabbit populations this year are even better than a year ago,
based on standard surveys by rural mail carriers.

“Overall statewide, things are looking up,” said Stricker, who
is project leader of the Olentangy Wildlife Research Station in
Delaware County. He recently was crunching the numbers provided by
the mail carrier survey.

“The rabbit population tends to go up in down in cycles,” the
biologist added. Typically cycles are three to five years in
duration, depending on weather, food availability, and predator

The last low point in the rabbit cycles occurred in 2005,
Stricker said.

Numbers have been steadily increasing since then, including this
year. The last rabbit peak came in 2003.

The rural carrier survey is keyed to the number of rabbits an
individual route carrier sees per 1,000 miles of driving.

“We may see (the current uptick) top out next year, or maybe
2010,” said Stricker. “But the numbers appear to be on the

“The season should be good. In Ohio you never really have a bad
year for rabbits,” he said. “It’s difficult to find an area that
doesn’t have enough rabbits to give a beagle a good run.”

At this point, Stricker could not help but reflect on his

“I grew up with beagles and it’s music to my ears,” he said.

When he was a young gun, Stricker’s dad had a pair of beagles
that were “a perfect match, sister and brother, a runner and a
sniffer.” When she would lose the scent during a good chase, he
would take over till he relocated the trail and she would yelp back
into the lead.

Stricker said that any areas with agricultural land mixed with
some pasture or Conservation Reserve Program set-aside should be a
rabbit magnet. Such patches are particularly prevalent in the
southwest corner of the state, but Stricker said not to overlook
the reclaimed strip mine lands of the southeast.

He cited the sprawling, 19,050-acre Woodbury State Wildlife Area
in Coshocton County as prime bunnyland. The wildlife area, the
second largest in the state, is admittedly popular with deer and
wild turkey hunters.

“But a lot of people forget there is grassland and shrubland
too,” Stricker said.

The latter includes solid thickets of autumn olive in which
rabbits love to lie up.

“People who want a big open area to run rabbits (and beagles)
should consider it,” Stricker said.

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