Rabbits in Shire’s scope

By Grace Jones | posted on September 8, 2018

THE Shire of Kojonup will weigh up its options for pest control over the coming weeks following an increase in rabbit numbers in the township.

In a recent report made to the Shire, Landcare officer Jane Kowald said the rabbit population had been steadily increasing over the past few months.

“A number of complaints have been made about their numbers,” she stated.

Ms Kowald’s recommendation to control the rabbit situation was to release a vial of the Schedule 4 restricted chemical RHDV1 K5, a variant of the calicivirus.

According to the Australian government Pest Smart website, RHDV1 is “one of the more humane methods of controlling wild rabbits”.

Shire CEO Rick Mitchell-Collins said it was all well and good to get rid of the problems caused by high populations of the rascally rabbits, but the far-reaching consequences of releasing the virus would need to be considered.

“There is a fl ow-on effect if we get rid of the rabbits,” he said.

“Without the availability of rabbits as a food source, predators such as foxes, feral cats and feral dogs are known to go after lambs during lambing season.

“Such is the dilemma of dealing with one nuisance but transferring the problem elsewhere.”

Mr Mitchell-Collins said consideration would need to be made for domesticated pets due to the highly contagious and effective characteristics of the virus.

“Before we need to make a decision on whether or not we release the virus we need to look at all of the effects it could have,” he said.

“We need to know how many pet rabbits are in the township and find a way to make sure those pets are inoculated.

“We can’t look at the issue in isolation. We don’t know the extent of the issue or the extent of the implications yet.”

Mr Mitchell-Collins said the Shire would seek community feedback on the nature, type and number of rabbit related problems in the town site.

“We’ll speak with farmers to hear what they think about the numbers of rabbits and number of lamb deaths caused by foxes,” he said.

“We don’t want to be in the same situation as Queensland with the cane toads and we don’t want to see pet rabbits dying due to the virus.

“It will take around six weeks to do all of the research and we’ll probably bring it back up for discussion in October.”