How to man­age rab­bits

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - Rural Weekly -

RAB­BITS in the Toowoomba re­gion are on no­tice with field of­fi­cers door­knock­ing more than 1800 homes in the High­fields area to de­ter­mine their abun­dance by look­ing for war­rens and breed­ing hotspots ahead of a ma­jor con­trol ef­fort.

The ac­tiv­ity is part of a joint project where Queens­land Mur­ray-Dar­ling Com­mit­tee of­fi­cers have teamed up with the Toowoomba Re­gional Coun­cil, the Dar­ling Downs-More­ton Rab­bit Board and Biose­cu­rity Queens­land to re­duce the rab­bit pop­u­la­tion in the ar­eas of High­fields, Cabar­lah, Hamp­ton, Crows Nest and Yar­ra­man.

Rab­bits are a de­clared pest in Queens­land, in­flict­ing sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to the land­scape, the en­vi­ron­ment, do­mes­tic gar­dens and agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion – to both crop­ping and live­stock.

Rab­bits con­sume sig­nif­i­cant amounts of pas­ture. Stud­ies have shown that just two rab­bits have the po­ten­tial to gen­er­ate 120 rab­bits within a 12-month pe­riod, and 50 rab­bits can eat the same amount of pas­ture as one horse or one cow.

They eat high value crops from seedlings to ma­ture plants and dam­age fruit trees by eat­ing their bark. One ap­ple grower on the South­ern Downs lost 200 young trees to rab­bits from one war­ren, at a re­place­ment cost of $16 per tree.

Tech­ni­cal staff rep­re­sent­ing TRC, QMDC, the DDMRB and Biose­cu­rity Queens­land are now car­ry­ing out sur­veys. They are call­ing on land­hold­ers to help iden­tify the lo­ca­tions of rab­bit hotspots on their prop­er­ties or in their neigh­bour­hood.

QMDC’s re­gional co-or­di­na­tor for land and water, Vanessa Mac­don­ald, said au­tumn was the ideal time to tackle the rab­bit pop­u­la­tion.

“With favourable cli­matic con­di­tions, a re­cent out­break of rab­bit haem­or­rhagic dis­ease and the re­lease of the K5 virus each im­pact­ing on rab­bit numbers, now is the ideal time to add an­other layer to con­trol ef­forts by way of me­chan­i­cal war­ren rip­ping,” she said.

“We’re in the process of sur­vey­ing rab­bit-breed­ing places on more than 1800 prop­er­ties on pri­vate and pub­lic land in the High­fields area. This will en­able us to map en­tries to un­der­ground war­rens or har­bours such as un­der sheds or rub­bish piles and the level of rab­bit ac­tiv­ity.

“So far we’ve com­pleted over 1000 sur­veys and have been find­ing slightly less war­rens than we an­tic­i­pated, which is a good start­ing point for us.”

Re­search by QMDC has re­vealed the most ef­fec­tive ap­proach to man­ag­ing rab­bits is to re­move their breed­ing grounds (by me­chan­i­cal means), ef­fec­tively tak­ing out the source of the pop­u­la­tion. Should any breed­ing places be iden­ti­fied on a prop­erty, QMDC will work in con­sul­ta­tion with the owner to con­duct con­trol work and pre­vent rab­bits from re­cov­er­ing and re­turn­ing to high and de­struc­tive lev­els.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

BUNNY HUNTERS: Brendan, Chas, Nathan, Lach­lan and Greg have been con­duct­ing rab­bit sur­veys on 1800 prop­er­ties in and around High­fields.

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