Did you know that when it comes to how much they eat, nine rabbits are the equivalent of one dry sheep?
Rabbit numbers can quickly add up and make a big dent in your pasture or crop.
Despite the release of the rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV1 K5) across the Murray Local Land Services region in 2017, rabbit numbers have increased significantly in some areas.
With good winter and spring rains making conditions ideal for rabbit breeding, now is the time to start planning your rabbit control program.
When considering a program, it's important to use a combination of control techniques.
Using programs that simply repetitively poison year after year without undertaking other forms of control is poor pest management. The most effective programs aim to eliminate all rabbits, warrens, burrows and harbour.
When rabbit densities are medium to high, it's critical to reduce numbers to a manageable level. This initial reduction is often best achieved through a poisoning program in late summer or early autumn, before the breeding season starts.
Rabbits will find and eat the bait material more readily if you poison in areas where feed is minimal.
The type of poison used for such programs is often determined by legislation set out in the relevant Pesticide Control Order or on individual landholder preference. It's best to discuss these options with an LLS Biosecurity Officer. After this initial reduction, and if rabbit numbers are low, you can start further control options to reduce the population further so that it cannot quickly recover.
In this phase, you should undertake harbour destruction by deep ripping or blasting warrens and burrows, fumigation, and removing fallen timber and blackberries.
Before you do any ripping or fumigation work, the area should be 'dogged' to drive rabbits underground.
Destroying rabbits without destroying their homes only gives short-term protection.
The old saying 'the rabbit makes the warren, but the warren makes the rabbit' is very true.
If you've carried out your program correctly, the level of infestation will likely be quite low by now.
At this stage, you can perform further follow-up control methods such as shooting, dogging, further harbour destruction and ripping/fumigation of warrens and burrows.
If you do this part well and regularly, the rabbit population will likely be eradicated or remain low.
It's a good idea to inspect your property at least annually to prevent a resurgence of rabbits into the treated areas.
Remember, the success of a control program is not determined by the amount of rabbits killed but by the amount of rabbits that survive. Get them down and keep them down - it's the cheapest option in the long run!
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