We are busy prepping our reveg sites for the 90k native plants (!) which will be installed across the corridor this winter. In order for the seedlings not to end up as very expensive rabbit food, we need to control the numbers of introduced European rabbits. What does this look like?
In some sections we are using rabbit-proof fencing or biodegradable cardboard tree guards to prevent rabbits from nibbling on our precious native seedlings.
We do however also need to control their overall numbers, as rabbits have significant negative impacts on native vegetation and wildlife and overall biodiversity and environmental health.
Integrated rabbit control is therefore undertaken as part of the Rehabilitating Roe 8 project in an effort to reduce their population and thereby predation on revegetation areas and remnant bushland areas.
In conjunction with the Department for Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions we seasonally release a virus called calicivirus or ‘RHDV’. This is done by distributing oats that have been mixed with the virus in areas of high rabbit activity. The oats are spread out at dusk and the virus remains active in the oats for 12-24 hours.
The rabbits eat the oats, get sick and the virus then spreads across the rabbit population via direct contact, fleas, flies and mosquitoes, reducing their population.
Rabbit owners can get their pets vaccinated at their local vet to prevent their bunnies from becoming sick. As the virus is specific to rabbits, it causes no harm to other animals that may ingest the oats.
Now you know what we refer to as an ‘RHDV release’ in the landcare industry!