Rabbit Control is more than just Ripping                                                                By Greg Wood – Department of Primary Industries .

Planning an intergrated rabbit control campaign

I have just read the post by Janet Hagen in Strathbogie Ranges Nature View Blog and felt it warranted a response. While Janet raises a number of concerns and questions related to rabbit control, most are not new and can be easily answered.

Ideal rabbit conditions

Janet makes the point that the standard method of rabbit control is to rip warrens with large excavators, which crushes native vegetation and leaves the soil open to erosion and weed colonisation. Unfortunately, Janet is spot on in also saying that the standard approach now is often to rip and walk away.

The reality is that ripping is not an end in itself, but should be one component of a well integrated rabbit control program. Other components include poisoning, fumigation, shooting, follow up monitoring and treatment, follow up weed control and last but certainly not least, revegetation.

In Janet’s Gooram example, she states that the property was already infested with weeds. In such a case, rabbit warrens would be easily identifiable, as they would be covered in nothing but weeds. Native vegetation certainly would not have a chance in the vicinity of an active warren. If warrens were not covered in weeds, they would be bare and already exposed to erosion. In situations where rabbits are well established and have been for some time, the chance that control measures may impact on high biodiversity values is minimal, as high biodiversity values and rabbits don’t often co-exist.

If I were to purchase the Gooram property, I would much prefer that was after 90 hours of ripping had occurred, not before. All that would be required would be to put a well planned revegetation program in place (which included weed management and follow up rabbit control) to establish either native vegetation or desirable pasture species.

By far the most important message from DPI when it comes to rabbit control is that it needs to be integrated and ongoing. As Janet says, poisoning in many areas seems to have dropped off the radar, but it is extremely effective in reducing numbers prior to ripping, which limits the chance of burrows being re-opened. There have been dozens of research projects undertaken to assess the impact of rabbits on native species, all drawing the same conclusions. Once grazing pressure from rabbits or any other species is reduced, the capacity for native species to regenerate without further intervention is astounding. Reseeding or planting may be required if high rabbit numbers have been present for a long time, but excellent results can still be achieved.

The bottom line is that in difficult, often inaccessible granite country such as the Strathbogie Ranges, ripping with heavy machinery is the only way to destroy active warrens, and destruction of the warren is the key to long term success in rabbit management. 

What is the alternative? The alternative is to tolerate rabbits in our landscape. Ithink we all agree, this is not an option.