Feral Rabbits

European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) are a serious invasive pest in Australia. Rabbits cause millions of dollars in damage to crops annually and, even at very low numbers, cause major impacts to the natural environment.

Rabbit populations across the Limestone Coast have increased due to the abundance of food and good breeding conditions.

Once established in rural areas rabbits can cause extensive damage to crops, pastures and native vegetation and are difficult to control, requiring constant landholder action to manage. Rabbits construct burrows that enable them to survive a wide range of environmental conditions. They adapt to a wide range of food types and their ability to graze plants to ground level contributes to the enormous damage they cause. It is the legal responsibility of the land owner to control rabbits on their property, and penalties can be imposed for failing to do so under the Landscape South Australia Act 2019.

Identifying the problem

The first step is to identify the location of any warrens or cover above ground that may harbor rabbits. This could be plant beds or woodheaps that provide rabbits with some refuge. Rabbits are territorial and generally don’t travel more than 200 metres from their home, feeding mostly within 25 to 50 metres.

Look for signs of where rabbits have been active, such as burrows fresh scratches in the soil, scattered or piled dung and damage to vegetation.

Managing Rabbit Populations in the Limestone Coast

Maintaining pressure on rabbits each year improves farm productivity, reduces food resources for foxes and feral cats and helps to protect remnant native vegetation and wildlife habitat.

Using a range of methods and coordinating with your neighbours to control rabbits over the summer season produces great results and restricts rapid recovery of the rabbit population in Autumn.
Rabbits in urban areas

Rabbits in urban and peri-urban areas can cause significant damage such as burrowing under buildings and the destruction of garden plants.

Best practice rabbit control in urban and peri-urban areas includes:
• Prevention – tidy and maintain your property by removing safe havens for breeding; use exclusion fencing to prevent access to wood and garden sheds
• Warren destruction – collapse burrows in on themselves
• Chemical control – baiting with Pindone poison bait on properties larger than 1000m2; fumigation of burrows. Both methods require specialist expertise.
• Biocontrol – using rabbits infected with viruses myxomatosis or RHD to spread the virus to rabbit infestations recognising that this method has unrealiable results on its own. Requires specialist expertise.

Limestone Coast Landscape Officers help landholders control rabbits by providing information, advice and integrated control services. Landscape Officers can provide:

  • Advice on pest control such as best control methods and timing of control:
  • Bait and equipment to assist with your rabbit control program
  • Publications and factsheets

If you need assistance with rabbit control, please contact your local Landscape Officer for advice. Call 08 8429 7550 to be put in touch with your local Landscape Officer.

Feral Rabbits
Rabbit Reproduction Indicator. Image content courtesy of the Wheatbelt NRM
Feral Rabbits

Did you know RabbitScan is a free resource for landholders, Landcare groups, community groups, local Councils, professional pest controllers and biosecurity groups. It has been designed by landholders for communities, and it is very easy to use.

What to record:

  • Rabbit activity (such as sightings and warrens).
  • Damage, such as soil erosion.
  • Control activities (such as warren ripping).
  • Disease in rabbit populations (such as RHDV).

Visit RabbitScan for more information

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