Rabbits galore


My father used to tell us of hillsides moving with rabbits on Ashridge in the Hakataramea Valley where he worked in the late 1930s.

A concerted eradication programme, helped by the establishment of Rabbit Boards got the pests under control.

Numbers increased again until the 1990s when someone – illegally – introduced rabbit calicivirus disease (RCD).

The rabbit population dropped but it’s on the rise again.

It’s not unusual to see several rabbits in a very short distance on the road at night. In spite of regular shoots and the efforts of Pepper, the dog, we often see them on the farm and our lawn.

RCD comes in waves and it must be ebbing now. But even at its peak it needs to be complemented by traditional methods of culling – poisoning and/or shooting.

Unfortunately when farm budgets are strained pest destruction may not be a priority for everyone and rabbits don’t stop at the boundaries of farms which don’t do their bit.

We’re not getting back to the moving hillsides my father witnessed but when we came down Mt Iron a couple of weeks ago we counted more than 30 rabbits on a sunny face about the size of a couple of netball courts.

When numbers are getting that bad on the edge of town they’re even worse in the country.

Is it time to consider reinstating pest destruction boards?

15,495 pests potted in Easter Bunny hunt


Central Otago has 15, 495 fewer pests after the 18th annual Easter bunny hunt.

Shooters potted 14,799 rabbbits as well as hares, stoats, ferrets, goats, possums, turkeys and a few feral cats.

Organised by the Alexandra Lions Club, the annual hunt has been responsible for culling almost 200,000 rabbits from Central Otago since its inception in 1991.

Local scouts also benefitted, being commissioned by the Lions to pick up all the dead rabbits and dispose of them in a purpose-dug pit.

  Rabbit tallies

Kills from the past 10 hunts:

•2009: 14,799 (39 teams)
•2008: 15,542 (35 teams)
•2007: 16,121 (31 teams)
•2006: 12,494 (35 teams)
•2005: 20,201 (43 teams)
•2004: 11,546 (33 teams)
•2003: 9148 (27 teams)
•2002: 7513 (18 teams)
•2001: 3694 (17 teams)
•2000: 4324 (20 teams)

•1997: 23,949 (44 teams)

The high numbers of rabbits killed in the last few years indicates that the population is rising again as resistance to RCD (rabbit calicivirus disease)  grows.

We’ve noticed rabbit numbers in North Otago increasing and in spite of regular shooting the number of young shurbs in the garden which are repeatedly nibbled indicates we’re not making much headway against them.

It’s not nearly as bad as it was in the 1930s when my father recalled there were so many rabbits it looked like hillsides were moving, but it’s a growing problem and I’ve got some sympathy with arguments for the reinstatement of rabbit boards.

Rabbits don’t respect boundaries so individual property owners’ pest control is only as good as that of their neighbours.

Reinstating boards would mean the that the effort, and money, most put into pest destruction isn’t sabotaged by the few who do little or nothing to eradicate pests on their properties.

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