Run rabbit! Country park ‘under threat’ if population of rabbits isn’t brought under control

Ely Country Park.

Ely Country Park. - Credit: Archant

The rabbit population must be brought under control if Ely’s award-winning country park is to retain its status as one of the best public spaces in the East of England.

Ely Country Park.

Ely Country Park. - Credit: Archant

East Cambridgeshire District Council says that rabbits have damaged areas of grass and are posing a threat to both wildflower planting and equipment if their numbers are not controlled.

Ely Country Park, off Creswells Lane, has both Green Flag and accredited country park status, making it one of only a handful of parks in the East to have claimed both awards.

But the district council says the park’s lofty status will be at risk unless more is done to tackle pests.

A report to the commercial services committee noted: “The council has had contact from site users about damage to the grass areas caused by rabbits, specifically around the play area.

“Families have reported that children are unable to play some games in the area due to the surface damage.

“The rabbit population is damaging the wildflower planting and the coppicing programme and poses a risk of damaging equipment.

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“The council has a duty of care towards wildlife within the country park and if not managed effectively there are risks of myxomatosis. The Pests Act 1954 states that occupiers of land have a legal responsibility to control rabbits.”

The council added that there was also a risk of contamination if the rabbits were allowed to continue scraping the surface of the park, as the site was a former landfill.

The report said: “If the topsoil is breached by rabbit scraping then the contamination could become exposed, the council’s environmental services scientific officer advises that this is a risk that needs to be managed.”