The European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is an invasive animal that was brought to Australia as domesticated livestock with the First Fleet in 1788. Feral European rabbits are found throughout almost three-quarters of the state are considered pest animals and also carry rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus rhdv. Do you also wonder Are rabbits considered as pests? Find out the answer here.

Rabbits like short grassed environments, such as natural grasslands and rural pastures. They are, nevertheless, extremely adaptable, having developed wild populations in a variety of habitats such as woods, deserts, coastal plains, subalpine regions, and subtropical grasslands. They’re also common in and around urban and agricultural regions in great numbers.

Feral rabbits may swiftly recolonize regions following pest control operations due to their flexibility and capacity to breed in high numbers.

What makes them such a nuisance?

Rabbits are one of the most damaging vertebrate pest species in Australia. Overgrazing has a substantial detrimental and costly impact on agriculture, and it puts many endangered plant species and ecological groups at risk.

Rabbits have an influence on our national parks and reserves in the following ways:

  • limiting native plant regrowth by grazing and sapling ringbarking
  • fighting for food and shelter with native animals
  • soil erosion caused by overgrazing is destroying historic and cultural places.
  • attracting and feeding other nuisance species like wild dogs, foxes, and feral cats, which can prey on native wildlife.

Rabbits have aided the decline or extinction of a number of native animal species in New South Wales, including the greater bilby, yellow-footed rock-wallaby, southern and northern hairy-nosed wombats, malleefowl, and plains-wanderer.

How Do You Know If You Have Rabbits in Your Garden?

Rabbits in Australia range in size from the jackrabbit, which is approximately the size of a house cat, to cottontails and brush rabbits, which are around 12 inches long. The jackrabbit weighs between three and seven pounds, whereas cottontail and brush rabbits are around two pounds. The fur on all of them is brown to grey in color, with different shades of brown.

You can notice evidence of a rabbit even if you don’t see one because rabbits leave behind gritty, round faecal “pellets” that are approximately 1/2-inch in diameter.

What do they do for a living and where do they live?

Unlike the story-tale “Brer Rabbit,” jackrabbits are generally found in open or semi-open settings like valleys and slopes, golf courses, parks, and airports. During the day, they hide in dirt depressions or behind shrubs. Brush and cottontail rabbits will also seek refuge in dense foliage, under and under rock piles, and in abandoned constructions, all of which are generally within a few feet of their shelter.

In five to six litters each year, a female rabbit can have up to three young. Baby jackrabbits are born completely furred and with their eyes open, ready to go. Cottontails are almost furless when they are born, have their eyes closed, and must stay with their moms for several weeks to grow.

What Do They Consume?

Rabbits prefer fragile new plants, although during their nightly feeding cycles, they will also eat seeds, bark, and nuts. Their eating habits are sometimes mistaken for those of deer. Twigs and flower heads are trimmed precisely by the rabbit’s incisors, no more than two feet from the ground, so you can see the difference. Deer, on the other hand, lack upper front teeth and must twist woody stems, causing the plant to suffer a ragged cut.

Rabbit control on your property

  • Effective wild rabbit management requires a mix of control methods rather than simply one. There is no fast remedy for this problem.
  • There’s no such thing as too many rabbits population. Re-infestation will occur if you leave a pair of rabbits or a single burrow unattended, undermining your control program, efforts and investment.
  • Keep in mind that rabbit harbor may also be used by local animals. Make certain that your rabbit management method does not harm natural animals.
  • If any rabbit control activity is to be done that may cause damage to native vegetation, culturally significant places, or rivers, the appropriate authorities should be contacted before the work begins. Local government, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Aboriginal Affairs Victoria or the local Registered Aboriginal Party, and the local Catchment Management Authority are all possible accountable bodies.
  • If you plan to utilize dogs in your control efforts, keep in mind that there are particular criteria for hunting dogs. Except while hunting in line with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986, a person may not set or incite a dog to attack, bite, rush at, or chase any animal under Section 28 of the Domestic Animals Act 1994. (POCTA). For further information on the use of dogs in hunting, consult the POCTA Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals in Hunting.
  • All applicable requirements of the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 1992 and the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Regulations 2017 must be satisfied if you propose to use chemicals to treat rabbits.

This includes following the chemical label’s recommendations for use, keeping relevant chemical use records, and only using ‘restricted use chemicals’ if you have the necessary Agricultural Chemical User Permission or other applicable permit. The Agricultural Chemicals website contains chemical usage report sheets as well as further information about agricultural chemical use.

How Can You Keep Them Under Control in the Most Non-Toxic Way Possible?

  • Fencing. Install a 48-inch-high wire-mesh fence with the bottom buried at least six inches below ground level. To keep rabbits from burrowing under the fence, bend a few inches of the bottom out. To keep young rabbits out, the mesh size should be no more than one inch. To discourage rabbits from burrowing, install tight-fitting gates with sills and keep the gates closed as much as possible, day and night.
  • Wrapping a tree. If it’s simpler to protect individual plants rather than a whole area, wrap chicken wire cylinders Rabbits can’t chew through the mesh if it’s wrapped around the trunks of young trees, the bottoms of the shrubs or vines are buried far enough away from the trunk.
  • Cleanup. Cleaning up to reduce hiding sites for cottontail and brush rabbits, remove brambles, mounds of brush, stones, or other debris from fence rows and ditches. Jackrabbits, on the other hand, will be unaffected by the removal of the cover since they may use it even if it is far away from their feeding places. 
  • Rabbit Disco. Noisemakers, flashing lights, and ultrasonic repellers are not useful in most cases. A tenacious pet dog let unrestrained within the secured area, on the other hand, may be worth his weight in doggy bits.
  • Repellents. Rabbit repellents are most effective in the early years, before woody plants yield fruit, or in the winter. However, most repellents cannot be applied on plants or plant components that will be consumed by people, with a few exceptions.
  • Trapping. Rabbits can contain illnesses that can be transmitted to the trapper, thus live trapping is not suggested.