Rabbits cause ecological damage as well as loss in agricultural production . Rabbits compete with native mammals for habitat. They also introduce weeds when soil is disturbed around warrens . They selectively graze on native plants and destroy regenerating native trees, shrubs and grasses. Rabbits can change a landscape , but once an area is free of rabbits , ecological balance is achieved .
The standard method of rabbit control in our area is ripping up the warrens with large excavators. Warrens need to be ripped to a depth of at least one metre and the area surrounding the warren needs to be ripped out to three metres beyond the actual rabbit holes. All rocks and logs need to pushed aside to allow machinery access to the warrens .This creates a massive amount of soil disturbance and native animal habitat destruction but it has proved to be the most effective way of premanently getting rid of rabbits. In the past we intregrated 1080 poison carrot campaigns with the ripping programs but that does not happen these days .
One landholder in Gooram was recently under notice from DPI to control rabbit population on his steep rocky ridgeline. Ninety hours of excavator work was subsequently done on his property. The hill tops were already infested with patersons curse , horehound and thistle which would have been spread further by the machinery. The bare loose soil was laid open to erosion and weed colonization. Remnant native vegetation was crushed. He has now decided to put the property on the market – a new landholder will inherit this major management problem.
Is anyone monitoring whether this short- term damage is worth the long- term gain ? Is warren ripping truely the best method of rabbit control in areas of high biodiversity value ? What are the alternatives? Landcare coordinators and DPI compliance staff check sites before ripping commences to map rabbit hot spots and immediately after ripping has been done to make sure all warrens have been treated .What about some long term monitoring of the landscapes ability to repair itself after such distrubance.