As Ross says in the Riddells Creek Landcare column in this March edition of Riddells Roundup –
Early March sees a big event in rabbit control—1000 doses of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus K5 were released at roughly the same time across Australia.
Greening of Riddell supports Landcare’s concern about rabbits. The property west of Wybejong Park is pockmarked with rabbit diggings, creating soil wash aways in the last few heavy rain events.
Here is some history to shine a light on the rabbit problem.
In 1859, approximately seven rabbits were released at ‘Barwon Park’ near Geelong. Just seven years later, 14,253 rabbits were shot on Barwon Park.
By 1875, the rabbit was well established in the western districts of Victoria, in South Australia at the southern end of the Flinders Ranges and around Sydney.
By 1879, the South Australian and Victorian infestations had merged covering the area from Spencer Gulf to north-eastern Victoria.
By the 1920s, rabbits had colonised most of the southern half of Australia and were present in extremely high numbers. The rate of rabbit invasion varied from 10-15 kilometres per year in wet forested country to over 100 kilometres per year in the range lands. The invasion of the rabbit was the fastest of any colonising mammal anywhere in the world.
The impact of rabbits on the Australian environment has been disastrous. Rabbits have significantly altered the botanical composition of extensive areas of natural habitat.
Rabbits are prolific breeders, able to produce numerous litters per year. Two rabbits can breed to over 180 rabbits in just 18 months!
Rabbits are stimulated to breed by the presence of nutritious green growth. This usually occurs during the wetter months but can include wet summers.
Survival of young is substantially increased when rabbits have safe harbour, especially breeding burrows and warrens. The destruction of warrens is the key to achieving long-term rabbit control.
One rabbit is one too many. Leaving a pair of rabbits or just one burrow will lead to re-infestation.
Rabbit control is most cost-effective, now, in late summer and early autumn as breeding has generally ceased in the rabbit population.
If the Chinese can eradicate flies, surely we can beat rabbits!