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Secondary control methods for rabbits

As we move into the warmer months, it's a good time to take a moment to think about developing an integrated rabbit management program for your property. As with any pest control program using multiple control methods will bring greatest success. These control methods are usually classified into two categories; primary and secondary.

Primary control is the method that will bring about maximum reduction of pest populations and should form the backbone of your management program. Primary control for rabbits is 1080 or Pindone baiting, which if done correctly can reduce rabbit populations by 90-95%. Secondary control methods are then implemented to further reduce populations and provide a longer-term reduction in rabbit numbers.

The following is an outline of secondary control methods for rabbits.

Harbour destruction 

Rabbits commonly live in warren and burrow systems, however rabbits are very adaptable and will readily make a home out of woodpiles, hollow logs, blackberries, lantana, piles of tin, wire and other farm refuse, as well as under shed and house slabs. By destroying or removing these rabbit habitats, rabbit numbers will be further reduced and reinfestation will be less likely if you make your property a less suitable habitat where possible.

Winter to spring is an excellent time for deep ripping of warren systems, burning woodpiles, spraying blackberries and generally tidying up around your home and machinery sheds.

Biological control

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) and Myxomatosis are two viruses that effect rabbits and both, when first released had a devastating effect on rabbit populations in Australia; in some areas wiping out close to 95 per cent of the rabbit population. However over time rabbits have built up immunity to these viruses, greatly reducing their effectiveness.

Myxomatosis is now endemic in rabbits in Australia and continues to infect rabbit populations according to seasonal conditions.

RHDV is still available for release in NSW through Local Land Services and is generally best released in autumn with regional coordination.

Shooting

Shooting can be a very effective secondary control method if conducted by a skilled shooter with humane consideration. The .22 rimfire is the most common and effective calibre for shooting rabbits as it is very accurate, cheap and powerful enough to humanely kill rabbits at distances of 75-100 metres. Shooting should only be conducted by licensed operators in locations where a safe backdrop is assured. 

Fumigation

Fumigation can be conducted with the use of Phosphine tablets which are available from rural suppliers and Local Land Services offices under various trade names. Fumigation can only be carried on warren systems where a good seal can be obtained by blocking of all burrow entrances in the system. This is an effective secondary control method though great care should be taken when using this method.

This article provides a brief overview of some primary and secondary controls methods for rabbits. If you would like to learn more or would like assistance with developing an integrated rabbit management program for your property, please contact your local South East Local Land Services office.