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Time to get the hop on rabbits

Rabbit breeding occurs in most regions of NSW during the spring months.  With many areas of the state recently experiencing wet weather, the conditions are expected to be favourable for rabbits.

Now is the time to undertake control measures to reduce rabbit populations.  In the lead up to spring the recommended methods of control are harbour destruction and/or warren fumigation or ripping.

Harbours are above ground breeding areas that may consist of piles of rocks or timber, fallen logs, old machinery, rubbish, weeds or dense and low-growing vegetation such as blackberry.

Removing harbour materials can reduce the likelihood of rabbits surviving, particularly when other control activities have been undertaken.  When a harbour is removed rabbits will find it difficult to establish and replenish numbers when spring arrives.

If harbour burning is undertaken, check for any local restrictions.  If clearing any native vegetation, approval may be required under the provisions of the Native Vegetation Act 2003.

Warren fumigation is a method that can work in areas where all burrow entrances can be accessed.  With the current wet conditions, fumigation can be reasonably effective when carried out correctly.

Another option is burrow ripping using mechanical equipment.  This method can prove successful because warrens can rarely be reopened.  However, there may be a risk of machinery bogging in areas where there has been recent wet weather.

Consider working with neighbours to reduce harbours and warrens over a larger area, if the rabbit problem occurs over a number of properties. The best results are achieved through coordinated control efforts, rather than just on individual properties.

Next year there will be a release of the new rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus, K5 (referred to as RHDV or K5), which will assist with rabbit control.  Like previous large scale virus releases such as myxomatosis and the initial rabbit calicivirus disease, land managers cannot rely solely on RHDV to control rabbit populations. RHDV will be another tool to help combat rabbit numbers.

There also needs to be a concerted effort to reduce fox and feral cat populations with any reduction in rabbit populations. Foxes and cats will target other prey, such as lambs and many native species when rabbit numbers decline.

It is important to consistently monitor pest populations in your area to continue to keep numbers low.  Monitor ripped areas to check for reopened burrows or warrens that may have been missed.

There is no silver bullet when it comes to pest animal management.  Maintaining rabbit numbers at low levels will only be achieved through the sustained efforts of all land managers.

For further information on rabbit control and pest animal management please contact your nearest Local Land Services office on 1300 795 299 or visit


Media contact: Mark McGaw, 02 4824 1911