New calicivirus release to tackle rabbit problem

News article |

Natural Resources Northern and Yorke has partnered with community groups on Yorke Peninsula in a bid to cut down the feral rabbit population, following reports of surging rabbit numbers in some coastal towns.

The Korean strain of the RHDV1-K5 calicivirus, which is specific to the European rabbit, has been released at several sites in Ardrossan, Port Vincent and Stansbury townships.

Yorke District Landscapes Ranger Janet Moore says it is hoped RHDV1-K5 will reduce the impact of rabbits in all three townships, where high numbers of the pests have been causing damage to coastal vegetation, lawns and gardens, parks and sporting ovals.

“Rabbits are one of our worst environmental and agricultural pests, so our aim is always to keep rabbit numbers at low levels; when the RHDV1-K5 is released it naturally spreads through the feral rabbit population in and around the townships,” Ms Moore said.

“The virus will not eliminate all rabbits, so it is important that landholders in the area complement the release by undertaking conventional rabbit control measures on their properties.

“We are urging landholders to undertake control activities including baiting, removing harbour and destroying burrows to maximise the success of the release.”

RHDV1-K5 is already present on Yorke Peninsula, having been released as part of a national rollout one year ago and it has been successful in reducing rabbit numbers across the majority of the district.

The virus release should produce results in a few weeks, and community groups will monitor its progress as it spreads through the rabbit population.

Current vaccines fully protect pet rabbits against RHDV1-K5 and owners should talk to their vet if they have any concerns.

“Most pet rabbits would have already been vaccinated prior to the national release last year, but owners should check they are up to date,” Ms Moore said.

This project is supported by the Northern and Yorke NRM Board, through funding from the Australian Government.

For more information about European rabbits and the control program, contact Natural Resources Northern and Yorke on (08) 8841 3444.

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