Primary producers in the Central West are being encouraged to think about rabbit population control measures with the hot, dry conditions reducing available feed sources and increasing chances of successful control.
Rabbits cost the Australian economy more than $200 million annually, making them the most costly vertebrate pest animal.
Central West Local Land Services biosecurity officer John Ellis worked with Trangie farmer Peter Howe to help control two rabbit colonies on Mr Howe’s property.
“There were two colonies within about 300 metres of each other and probably 200 rabbits in each,” Mr Howe said.
“At any one time I’d see 40-50 in one colony and maybe the same in the other.”
Mr Howe discussed his options with Mr Ellis to determine the most suitable control methods for the site.
“We free-fed about 10 kilograms on one colony and then gave another 15 kilograms of baited carrots.
“We left it two to three weeks and then did the other colony.”
Mr Howe said he thought the measures resulted in reducing the population by around 80% and he is planning follow up activities once conditions improve.
“It was worthwhile doing it,” Mr Howe said.
Mr Ellis said it was important for producers to consider working with their neighbours over summer to achieve high levels of rabbit population control.
“The current drought presents landholders with the ideal conditions to bait rabbits and achieve high levels of control,” Mr Ellis said.
“Given how fast rabbit numbers can increase once conditions improve it is important for neighbours to work together and get as high knockdown as possible when doing a control program.”
Central West Local Land Services can organise bait materials and help producers work out a control program to suit their area, Mr Ellis said.
“Rabbits largely source moisture from the feed they eat which is why using carrots as bait is very effective.
“When it rains and green pick comes through baiting programs are less effective as they have a choice of feed.”
Once a successful baiting program has occurred, it is recommended that warrens are ripped immediately after to hinder the rabbits’ ability to recover quickly, Mr Ellis said.
“Following this, rabbit numbers should be reassessed and control techniques reapplied if necessary.
“Using this best practice can result in benefits lasting 20 years or more.”