EUROPEAN RABBIT (Oryctolagus cuniculus)
Feral rabbits have been labelled Australia’s most expensive pest, causing considerable losses to agricultural and horticultural industries. They compete with native wildlife for food and habitat and cause soil erosion and degradation of native vegetation. They ringbark trees and shrubs and prevent regeneration by eating seeds and seedlings.
Feral rabbits are favoured by Australian condition and breed prolifically.
Just one warren entrance and a pair of rabbits can re-infest a property. Rabbits at densities as low as one active entrance per two hectares can seriously impact the regeneration and recruitment of sensitive plant communities.
In urban environments they can damage lawns and gardens and may undermine buildings, garages and sheds. Rabbits can also damage golf courses, sports grounds and parkland reserves.
Rabbit numbers can quickly rise and fall and when they are low most landholders are reluctant to carry out controls. In fact, low numbers after a successful biological control provide an ideal opportunity to implement other controls such harbour removal and warren destruction.
Biological control will not kill all rabbits, resistance will build up and the rabbits will be back.
We need to finish the job that the biological controls have started and remove rabbit breeding places such as warrens and above-ground harbour such as thickets of woody weeds, rubbish heaps, rock piles and windrows or populations will move straight back in and begin breeding.
Effective rabbit control is a long-term business and requires integration of a range of methods, particularly post biological release, each strategically timed at the right time of year.
Controls at the wrong time of year can have little or no effect. Unfortunately, often because of time constraints or lack of capacity, controls are only undertaken when landholders have the time and resources.
Options for control of rabbits in urban areas are limited because of the danger of off target harm to domestic pests and humans.
Urban and Peri-urban landholders very often do not have the knowledge, capacity or will to control wild rabbits themselves on their properties. However, their ongoing harbour of uncontrolled rabbits undermines control efforts elsewhere in the wider landscape.