Illawarra rabbit control to start in April

It’s lucky for the Easter Bunny that his biggest day of the year comes just before April.

Because once mid-autumn comes, it’s wabbit season in the Illawarra.

A planned release of the calicivirus is due to begin in April to control the wild rabbit population in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven regions. 

Wild rabbits are a declared pest animal in NSW and are responsible for major agricultural and environmental damage.

Owners of pet rabbits are being warned by the Cumberland Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA) to ensure their own bunnies are vaccinated.

“The control of wild rabbits is an important responsibility of land management and it is a legal obligation for all landholders to undertake,” LHPA ranger Daniel Shaw said. 

‘‘I’d like to stress the importance of vaccinating pet rabbits in the target area for calicivirus now to ensure that if they come in contact with the virus, which is mainly spread by insects and contact between other rabbits, they are immune".

Mr Shaw said rabbit owners should consult with their vet and maintain a vaccination program to protect their pets.

In the meantime, wild rabbit blood samples are being taken in the lead up to the he release to identify the current levels of calicivirus antibodies among the wild rabbit population.

“The release of calicivirus is an effective control method where there are susceptible populations of wild rabbits, especially around urban areas where traditional control methods such as using poisons and fumigants or shooting are restricted due to the risks involved,” Mr Shaw said.

Virus releases are timed to obtain the most benefit when there is the highest likelihood of effectiveness. In the Illawarra and Shoalhaven district the most favourable time for calicivirus to be released is autumn.

‘‘The program’s success can be maximised by landholders undertaking control work including baiting remaining rabbits, removing harbour and destroying burrows after the calicivirus release,’’ Mr Shaw said.

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