Rabbit cull postponed to examine possible alternatives to protect listed structures and Scheduled Monument

A cull of rabbits at an Inverurie cemetery has been postponed as a result of public reaction to the plans, to allow alternative pest control methods to be investigated.

In recognition of relatives’ concerns about the damaging effect the animals are having, and to protect nationally important structures around the cemetery, it was planned to eradicate them next week.

Officers will now take time to look at alternative methods of dealing with the problem, which is creating a safety risk and affecting a Scheduled Ancient Monument at the Bass Cemetery.

Significant numbers of rabbits have moved in, burrowing through the graveyard, undermining headstones and eating flowers and plants left by mourners. 

The population within the cemetery has grown substantially in recent years since a boundary wall was damaged by flooding, allowing the colony living around the neighbouring monument to expand.

As well as a duty of care for visitors to the cemetery, the council also has a responsibility to look after the scheduled monuments on the site.

Officers explored a range of options before deciding on the use of gas via an experienced and licensed specialist contractor, after the wall and rabbit-proof fencing was repaired.

Since announcing the plans there has been a strong reaction from members of the public who do not want to see the rabbits killed and other alternative pest control methods have been suggested.

"Whilst we fully understand that dealing with a rabbit infestation is contentious, this work will still have to take place, so this is a postponement to examine any realistic alternatives," said the council’s Head of Roads, Landscape Services and Waste, Philip McKay.

"We have to ensure that the cemetery operates effectively, efficiently and respectfully and that includes ensuring that memorials, such as headstones, are structurally sound and do not present a danger to those visiting the cemetery to pay their respects. 

“Unfortunately, the cemetery has already been badly impacted by burrowing and this is something that has to be addressed quickly to prevent further significant damage.”

The older (western) part of the cemetery is Category B listed, which means structures within it are protected by law. As owner of the cemetery, the council has to maintain these structures.

In addition, the neighbouring Bass and Little Bass Mounds are a Scheduled Monument protected by law, being all that remain of a motte and bailey castle dating from the 12th Century. 

It was first scheduled in 1882, one of the first in Scotland. Within the cemetery is a collection of Pictish carved stones (also scheduled monuments), due to be returned to site after conservation works in the next few months.

Historic Environment Scotland has already highlighted deterioration in the condition of the scheduled monument and cemetery as a direct result of the rabbit population. 

Reducing the population is the minimum action necessary to help prevent further damage, in combination with better rabbit management using suitable fencing and gates.