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Cumberland LHPA to target wild rabbits

Posted Monday 25 February 2013

The Urban Feral Animal Action Group which includes all Land Managers at Middle Head, Mosman, will start its first phase of controlling feral rabbits in 2013 by releasing the calicivirus (RHDV) across the Sydney North region in late March.

feral rabbits

People with pet rabbits are encouraged to vaccinate their animals before the planned release of calicivirus which aims to reduce populations of wild rabbits in targeted areas of the Cumberland Livestock Health and Pet Authority (LHPA).

Calicivirus, also known as Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV), is used to control wild rabbits which in NSW are a declared pest animal. Reducing wild rabbit numbers is of benefit to the community as they are responsible for major agricultural and environmental damage.

According to Steve Parker, Cumberland LHPA Ranger, the release of calicivirus is part of an integrated and coordinated approach to the management of wild rabbits which includes landholders, local councils and other government organisations. The program is supported by the Urban Feral Animal Action Group (UFAAG), which is made up of major land owners in Northern Sydney.

“Rabbit control programs have been running for a number of years, however in late 2011 our annual monitoring for the presence of RHDV antibodies in wild rabbits indicated a high level of immunity, so last year the release of calicivirus would likely not have been as effective,” he said.

“Recent blood samples sent for RHDV testing have predominantly come back negative for antibodies, meaning in theory that the rabbit population should now again be susceptible to the virus.

“Calicivirus can be utilised as a very effective control tool where there are susceptible populations of wild rabbits. In cases where there are wild rabbits around urban areas, traditional control using poisons, fumigants or shooting are restricted due to increased risks.”

Releases are timed to obtain the most benefit when there is the highest likelihood of effectiveness. In the Cumberland LHPA district the most favourable time for calicivirus to be released is autumn.

“It is much more effective if landholders undertake control work like baiting remaining populations, removing harbour and destroying burrows after the programmed calicivirus release to maximise its success,” Mr Parker said.

“It’s also important that people in the targeted area who own pet rabbits vaccinate for calicivirus now to ensure that if their domestic rabbit comes in contact with the virus, which is mainly spread by insects and contact between other rabbits, they are immune,” Mr Parker said.

Owners of pet rabbits should consult with their vet and maintain a vaccination program to protect their rabbits.

For more information on rabbit control contact your LHPA office or ranger: