Use of water troughs by wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in a farmland area of north-west Spain
Installation of water troughs is a common approach to increase densities of small game species in the Iberian peninsula but little is known about the watering patterns of target species, such as the wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Using camera trapping, we monitored the use of water troughs by wild rabbits over 228 weeks in three consecutive periods, from June to October in 2008, 2009 and 2010, on farmland in north-west Spain. Wild rabbits used 43% of the water troughs. A significantly higher number of rabbits were observed drinking at troughs surrounded by shrub cover than at those in open fields. Most drinking events were recorded from July to September (98%), though the use of water troughs was not clearly related to weather. Wild rabbits drank mainly during the morning (52% of rabbits), less so in the evening and at night, and rarely in the afternoon. Wild rabbits were photographed together with red-legged partridges (Alectoris rufa) in 6% of photographs. These findings suggest water troughs are useful for species such as wild rabbits and should be allocated close to shrub areas.