Last week, a VRAN training course was run at Ned’s Corner in Victoria’s far north west. Peter and Colleen Barnes, the Manager’s of this extensive Trust for Nature property, have remarkable credentials. They have eliminated rabbits from vast tracts of the landscape. Rabbit decimated flora has been replaced with hectares of regeneration. New populations of indigenous fauna are returning.
Some examples of the learnings about rabbit control and the profoundly negative impacts rabbits have on the landscape and agriculture stood out.
To be successful, you need to eliminate rabbits from your property. Rabbits reproduce at phenomenal rates. In fact, within 18 months a remainder can become a whole new population of 184!
Best to have your neighbours on board. Rabbits know no boundaries.
Rabbits are aggressive toward each other. They force dispersal. The likelihood of re-invasion is high.
Most of us do not realise how productive a rabbit free landscape can actually be. 1 rabbit per hectare is enough to suppress non weed growth. This is the landscape we are used to. At Ned’s we saw the remarkable contrast either side of a rabbit proof fence; stripped plants and bare ground on one side, unhindered regeneration on the other.
Rabbit control measures come in many forms. Some combinations may be of more use in one area than another.
Viral control is only registering around a 34% success rate and is often localised. This is only one weapon in the arsenal. It should not be relied upon.
The ideal scenario is to time your control measures for when rabbits are at their most vulnerable (hungriest). Bait appropriately, rip or implode warrens, fumigate and collapse re-openings and action a regular maintenance plan.
Some combinations may be of more use in one area than another. In some contexts, the above sequence is not possible and emphasis on techniques may vary. For instance, in the sandy north west a log skidder acted as an effective warren ripper, as opposed to the 20 tonne excavators preferred in the granite country of the north east.
Ned’s Corner is on the sandy plains of Victoria’s north west
The homestead is situated near the Murray River.
The classroom sessions were much more than simple instruction. A great deal of shared learning took place. Attendees included Ag Vic, Parks Vic, Contractors, Landcare facilitators / volunteers, Contractors and commercial planters
Rabbit dung hills inform about the local rabbit population
Native blue bush stripped bare
Tim, shares his expertise as a rabbit control professional
Rabbit control professional Brad instructs on use of the furrowing bait distributor
Mentor Neil Devanny watches over proceedings
Preparing for a baiting lesson on the rabbit infested side of a rabbit proof fence. Note the regeneration on the other side.
Manual bait laying in progress
Biosecurity Officer Nigel also provided his specialist expertise
Furrows for baiting at different densities using 1080 and pindone were demonstrated. Choosing the right bait for a particular context is important.
Communal meals were a great opportunity to get to know each other and network
Nigel provided instruction on the essentials of spotlighting
There was particular emphasis on WH&S
This warren was used for smoking and fumigating demonstration
The adapted Stihl blower / smoker can cost hundreds of dollars
Nigel explains smoking and fumigant management
Connected burrows smoking
Bellarine Landcare Facilitator Sophie demonstrated an innovative and cheap Men’s Shed warren smoker costing a fraction of the usual stihl adapted blower
Sophie demonstrated her blower to be very effective
Just as effective, if not better
Reading fumigant chemical labels minimises risks and prevents off label usage
PPE for fumigation
Brad explains the benefits of warren implosion
Andrew shows a plastic explosive roll
1 of 2 warrens imploded
The log skidder ripper was a new machine to many of us. It was explained how valuable it was to have a spotter on the ground to guide the machine operator
The log skidder is useful for warrens in soft sandy soil
Ripping the warren
All openings have been ripped, track rolled and smoothed off to an area 4 metres wider than the most far flung hole
On our last evening, Property Managers Peter and Colleen gave us a fascinating presentation about the history and operation of Ned’s Corner.
Unwinding around an evening fire was a pleasant way to finish up the very full days