Hackett residents will almost certainly have noticed an alarming increase in rabbits in the area over the last few years. Unfortunately this is not just a local problem with rabbit populations all over Australia increasing as the pests build up resistance to rabbit calici disease and myxomatosis.
Rabbit calici disease virus was introduced in Hackett in 2007 but was not successful in reducing rabbit numbers. Parks, Conservation and Lands (PCL) in Territory and Municipal Services will therefore be conducting a rabbit control program on Majura and Mt Ainslie Nature Reserves, Watson Woodlands and Hackett Horse Paddocks throughout the Autumn.
What are the benefits of controlling rabbits?
Rabbits are a serious environmental pest as their grazing results in a loss of vegetation and their warrens contribute to soil erosion. Grazing by rabbits threatens the survival of native birds, mammals, and insects that rely on plants for food and shelter and rabbits have contributed to the extinction of many native plant and animal species. Rabbits compete with livestock for available pasture and kill young trees and shrubs. If left uncontrolled, rabbits will further invade surrounding land including back yards, causing more damage to the environment and private property.
How will the program be undertaken?
From March through Autumn PCL will undertake an integrated control program using recognised control techniques including fumigation of rabbit warrens using phosphine gas and poisoning of surface rabbits using pindone carrot bait. In open areas where access is available, a bulldozer may be used to destroy rabbit warrens.
What is the risk to native animals?
The program will be undertaken in a manner that limits the risk to native animals. If a warren is known to be occupied by a non-target species, fumigation will not be performed. Pindone carrot bait will be laid in a manner that restricts access by native animals including kangaroos.
What is the risk to domestic animals?
Pindone is widely used throughout Australia to control rabbits within the urban area because it has a readily available antidote. It is extremely unlikely a dog could receive a toxic dose of pindone poison through eating poisoned rabbits (secondary poisoning). While secondary poisoning is very unlikely, dogs may be susceptible to primary poisoning if they eat the poisoned bait (carrot or oats). It is therefore important that dogs remain on leads while being walked through the area.
There is very little risk to cats as they would need to eat most of a dead rabbit each day for several days to be poisoned and are unlikely to consume poisoned carrot or oats. In order to minimise the risk of secondary poisoning, all visible rabbit carcasses will be removed for 12 days after poisoning commences.
In the event of a domestic animal showing symptoms of pindone poisoning (vomiting, bloody fluid in the mouth, blood in the faeces), the antidote is available from most veterinarians. It consists of an injection of Vitamin K1 (1mg/kg liveweight) which counteracts the effects of pindone in the body.
Fumigation of warrens poses little risk to domestic pets and is considered one of the most target specific means of managing rabbits.
How can local residents assist?
Friends of Mount Majura, the local Park Care group have already volunteered many hours in mapping and marking rabbit warrens in the area. Other local residents and Park visitors can assist by ensuring all dogs are kept on leads and that children in the area are supervised. Rabbit control areas will be identified by signs placed at public access points.
For further information please contact Canberra Connect on 13 22 81.