In this section: Plan
Getting busy with rabbit control may be a first response to rabbit problems, but time spent planning will ensure greater likelihood of success (especially in the long term), more cost-effective outcomes, and better alignment with property management overall. Planning is about specifying the problem to be fixed (e.g. poor regeneration or pasture growth), understanding the web of interacting contributing factors, and determining how those factors will be managed to generate a desired outcome.
Key questions are:
Rabbits are part of a web of interactions across landscapes. The ‘benefits of rabbit control’ diagram records many of them and is a useful thought-starter to consider which interactions will be most important to individual properties. It will help to see relationships that need to be managed regarding:
- Other pests (e.g. any predator/prey associations with feral cats or foxes, or grazers like feral goats).
- Weeds (e.g. those providing harbour or being spread by rabbits).
- Priorities for remediation (e.g. protecting seedlings, crops or rare plants from rabbits).
As detailed in Manage, the best results from rabbit control come when a number of different techniques are integrated into a cohesive plan that often includes biological, physical and chemical control. It is often necessary to also work with neighbours for lasting results, especially if rabbits move between adjacent properties.
For more information:
The best way to start planning a control program is to specify the problem. It facilitates better analysis of the root cause and clarifies what differences (or outcomes) would occur if the problem was removed. Being clear on these elements gives focus and strategy to the plan.
The following problem analysis charts (vineyard and conservation examples) illustrate how problem analysis feeds into planning and helps define an outcome to focus upon.
Comprehensive rabbit control can include various forms of culling to reduce their numbers, warren destruction or harbour removal to expose rabbits to more risks and retard breeding, and fencing to keep them out of priority areas. Each has to be considered in light of the local environment (physical and social), the required outcome, the cost-benefit, and alignment with existing property management and landuse.
A mix of control techniques is usually required for rabbit control and getting the sequence and timing right generates additional benefit. Ideally, control occurs in three phases:
- Knockdown – initial control to reduce rabbits to manageable levels, e.g. biological control, poisoning or taking advantage of drought-induced decimation.
- Knockout – extensive, often more targeted, control to reduce numbers and inhibiting breeding or reinfestation, e.g. warren destruction and harbour removal.
- Mop-up – locating and cleaning up remnant rabbits and warrens, e.g. fumigation or shooting.
In some regions private providers offer help in planning and implementing pest control programs.
The timing of various control operations needs to be optimal in terms of rabbit control, e.g. there is little value in laying baits when more palatable green feed is abundant.
Timing also needs to fit with other aspects of property management. Drawing up an annual calendar of activities helps in both regards and enables rabbit control to become an integral part of annual property management operations, not an intermittent add-on.
For examples of calendars used to plan and synchronise control programs see:
If calicivirus is already present, there is little to be gained by RHDV-K5 releases at that time and, as a ‘rule of thumb’, RHDV-K5 should not be released if young rabbits or green grass are present – it can be counter-productive. See the ‘RHDV-K5 Rule of thumb explanation’ for more detail.
RabbitScan offers a relatively easy to use analysis service to determine if calicivirus is present.
Calicivirus also leaves tell-tale external and internal signs, offering another way to determine if RHDV is present. See the RHDV Identification Fact Sheet for more information.
Rabbit control plans should include detail on what will be monitored and how it will be done. Building on survey data from the Analyse phase, it should consider the desired outcomes (how to measure them and how to specify a target level of achievement), contributing factors (e.g. rabbit distribution and abundance), and the degree to which the plan is being implemented as specified.
The following monitoring and evaluation charts demonstrate how a monitoring plan could be developed for a rabbit control program in a vineyard and conservation area, carrying on from the examples under Develop a plan / Outcomes.
Photographs are a great aid to monitoring. Photo-points (photos of the same spot, taken over time from the same position) provide a visual record of changes that occur. Other photos of rabbits, rabbit damage, the location and extent of warrens, and of control operations record what has occurred and why. For more information see Assess / Rabbit distribution & abundance and Manage / Monitoring tools.
References & Weblinks
- RabbitScan Handy Resources – Planning tools
- Decision Support Systems – rabbit control on conservation and production lands
Case studies of effective rabbit control:
- Pine-buloke woodlands – Hattah-Kulkyne National Park (Vic)
- Rangelands – Thackaringa Station (NSW)
- Off-shore islands – Phillip, Cabbage Tree & Macquarie Islands
- Rabbit control on Arkaba – Flinders Ranges (SA)
- ‘Glovebox Guide for managing rabbits.’ (2020) Brown A, Cox T & Wishart JH. Centre for Invasive Species Solutions.
- ‘Managing Vertebrate Pests: Rabbits.’ (1995) Williams K, Parer I, Coman B, Burley J & Braysher M. Bureau of Resource Sciences & CSIRO Division of Wildlife & Ecology. ResearchGate download
- ‘Rabbit Control. A guide for land managers’. (2008) Hunter C et.al. Dept of Primary Industries & Fisheries, Qld.
Planning guides & resources
- ‘Conventional Rabbit Control: Costs and Tips.’ Hart Q. (2003) Bureau of Rural Sciences, AFFA
- ‘Planning landscape-scale rabbit control’. (2012) Cooke BD. Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre.
- ‘Best Practice Rabbit Management‘. Primary Industries & Regions SA
- Cooke B, Jones R & Gong W (2010) ‘An economic decision model of wild rabbit control to conserve native vegetation’. Wildlife Research 37(7) 558-565
Examples of Rabbit Control Plans