Rabbit numbers explode

Take action: The RHDV K5 strain of calicivirus, that was released earlier this year, has had mixed results in the Northern Tablelands area. Landowners are being encouraged to rip and fumigate warrens now. Photo: NT LLS.
Take action: The RHDV K5 strain of calicivirus, that was released earlier this year, has had mixed results in the Northern Tablelands area. Landowners are being encouraged to rip and fumigate warrens now. Photo: NT LLS.

Good spring rain and mild conditions have helped rabbit numbers across the district explode to highs not seen for 20 years.

Landowners and graziers have been reporting large rabbit numbers on properties and the furry pest has also been causing problems on the outskirts of Glen Innes.

Northern Tablelands Local Land Services animal biosecurity and welfare officer Gareth McLennan said a pair of breeding rabbits could produce 200 kittens a year.

He ran a field day at Glen Innes recently where there has been a particularly high concentration in the peri-urban fringes of town and he urged landholders to work together to combat the pest.

“Rabbit numbers go in cycles,” he told the Country Leader.

“Some years myxomatosis and calicivirus control populations and then over three or four years the rabbit numbers build up.”

Mr McLennan said there were a number of control options including warren ripping, fumigation, baits, getting an expert to use explosives as well as biological measures.

“Number one is to poison with either 1080 or pindone,” he said.

“It’s your best option to knock the population down, then secondly rip the warrens then anything that opens up can be fumigated.

“I would advise a ripping and fumigating at the moment and save the poison program for the winter months when they are looking for a bit of food,” Mr McLennan said.

To get the best results with poison, rabbits should be free fed carrots first so they learn to come and eat the baited offering.

The RHDV K5 strain of calici that was released earlier this year has had mixed results in the Northern Tablelands area.

“Around Glen Innes and Tenterfield rabbits had a high level of genetic resistance, but around  Armidale – in pockets – there has been some good results,” Mr McLennan said.

Mr McLennan stressed that working together with neighbours to co-ordinate an eradication program was important.

“Rabbits don’t care whose place they are on,” he said. 

“You need to use the right method at the right time of the year and work with your neighbours to achieve the most effective result.”

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