Why do you think that this graph of rabbit numbers looks like it does?
The graph shows the total number of rabbits counted over 18 kilometres across the same seven properties since 1996. The count has been an ongoing part of the research done by the Department of Agriculture at 17 sites across Victoria following the release of Calicivirus. Ours is one of those sites.
As you can see, despite the numbers being extremely high (1017) in 1996, the low total number has been maintained since about 2006 and is especially low since 2016. The total rabbit count in 2019 was 10.
The biological control agent, RHDV K5, alone is not the solution to rabbit control. It is just one component of an integrated approach. The most important component of an integrated control program is what landholders do to actively reduce rabbit numbers and to maintain them at low numbers.
While destroying rabbits is important to reduce the population, the most effective impact is achieved when rabbit burrows are systematically removed from the landscape. This means ripping burrows, done by experienced operators with heavy equipment, with a spotter to ensure no burrows are missed. Rabbits must have access to burrows to breed successfully. Without a burrow, and if the numbers are low, rabbits have little chance of survival. This is due to exposure of young to the elements, predation by other animals and the ongoing impact of the efforts of landholders.
There are areas around our local landscape that have very high numbers: hot spots. This invariably means that little effort has been made to control rabbit numbers. With high rabbit numbers nothing can grow properly and there will definitely be no regeneration of native flora. This means native fauna will be adversely affected. Rabbits have made a significant contribution to the extinction of about 400 species across Australia due to destruction of the habitat of those animals. Because of their impact on our environment rabbits will worsen the harmful impacts of our changing climate on native plants and animals.
So back to that graph: the most important fact is that rabbit numbers have been maintained at low levels for 15 years. The benefit for those landholders, both economic and environmental, has been enormous. The answer to the question of how and why the numbers are so low: it is because of the planned, integrated and ongoing efforts of all of the landholders along this spotlight transect. The achievement of these people, even with a number of changes of ownership, is a credit to them. In fact, this success is recognised and lauded beyond Euroa and across Victoria by communities who hear the story, as well as by officers in government departments responsible for rabbit control.
If you have any rabbits, you have a rabbit problem. It is a community problem that must be addressed by all of us.
To assist you in addressing the challenge the Granite Creeks Project is currently coordinating an integrated rabbit control program. Financial support is available for ripping and harbour control.
Please see the advertisement in this edition. Contact our Project Manager to register to be involved. In fact, encourage your neighbours to work with you. A landscape wide effort is the most effective approach. A short video outlining the processes required to achieve integrated rabbit control (called The Rabbit Recipe) is available at https://rabbitaction.com/further-resources/