Rabbit numbers on the rise across Ballarat region

FARMERS in the Ballarat region are facing an onslaught of rabbits over the summer, according to the Department of Primary Industries.The DPI have warned landholders to act now to prepare for a “rapid increase” in rabbit numbers across Victoria.Biosecurity manager for Established Invasive Animals, John Matthews, said data indicates rabbit numbers are starting to rise from a 15-year low.“Initial analysis of the 2011 spring program indicates increases in both population and active warrens,” he said.“Recent high rainfall and strong pasture growth will also improve survival and extend the breeding season.”DPI rabbit monitoring at 17 sites on farmland across Victoria since 1998, provides nationally significant data as well as a reliable tool for measuring change in rabbit populations, the behaviour of the rabbit hemorrhagic disease (Calicivirus) and the effects of the conventional rabbit control programs.“It appears a higher proportion of rabbits have antibodies to RHDV, released in 1995-96,” Mr Matthews said.“This is evident across all sites with around half the kittens, 70 per cent of young adults and 80 per cent of older adult rabbits moving into the next breeding cycle, having antibodies to RHDV and would likely survive further exposure to the disease.”Mr Matthews said on a positive note, there has been a sustained reduction in rabbit populations where broad-scale destruction of rabbit warrens has taken place.He said the information reinforced the need for land managers to take action now.“The recipe for success is simple – accurate and timely application of the correct control techniques at a landscape scale, based on warren ripping, provides an immediate and sustainable solution for managing rabbit populations.”For more information on controlling rabbits, visit www.dpi.vic.gov.au

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