Rabbits have been significant pests in Australia since they were released near Geelong, Victoria in 1860. Rabbits are one of Australia’s most serious pest animals and typically:
- destroy pasture, crops and plant communities impacting on agriculture and the environment;
- cause soil erosion and associated sedimentation of waterways;
- compete with native fauna for food and habitat; and
- are well suited to Australian conditions and breed prolifically.
In 2004 rabbits were estimated to have an annual economic impact of over $113 million dollars nationally.
Rabbit biology and behaviour
Before designing your rabbit control program, it is important to understand rabbit behaviour and characteristics. Following are some points that should to be considered in the design of your program:
- Rabbits have a hierarchy in which dominant males mate with dominant females. Non-dominant rabbits will disperse and seek alternative feeding areas and establish other warrens or territories.
- Rabbits are territorial. Adventurous rabbits generally feed further from the warren; shy rabbits feed closer to the warren. Rabbits may not find (and therefore not eat) bait placed outside their feeding areas.
- Rabbits are naturally wary of new things in their environment. Free-feeding is essential to encourage rabbits to feed on rabbit bait before the poison baits are applied.
- 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.