Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) are generally scattered throughout the Gisborne district in moderate to low levels.
Why are rabbits pests?
Rabbits compete with stock for pasture, it's estimated that 8 rabbits can eat as much pasture as one sheep. The burrowing habit of the rabbit encourages erosion and the removal of cover vegetation causes wind erosion.
Rabbits damage small trees and shrubs in orchards and exotic forest plantings. They chew bark and foliage, dig up roots and nip seedlings in half.
They prefer pastures grazed by sheep than cattle. Plant pests such as blackberry, gorse, broom, briar, thistles, pampass and sedge type plants provide ideal habitat for rabbits and make control difficult.
Who is responsible for the control of rabbits?
Rabbits are a declared 'Sustained Control' animal pest in the Gisborne district. Property owners and occupiers are responsible for the control of rabbits on their land.
Individual trees and plants can be protected using cylinders of netting, plastic or metal.
Chemical repellents applied to individual trees can discourage rabbit browsing. Thiropel is a commercial repellent with an active ingredient called Thiram. You can buy repellent from any farm supply store or some garden suppliers. Other repellents include Jeyes fluid, Treepol and fish-based liquid fertilisers.
Pindone poison bait is effective in controlling low rabbit numbers. Pindone is a slow-acting anti-coagulant poison. It needs to be consumed over several days to be effective. Rabbits will remain active in treated areas for up to 4-5 days after the bait has been eaten.
Before laying poisons, read the product label carefully. Make sure all precautions are taken to keep poisons away from children, pets and stock.
Night shooting with a spotlight is an effective way to control small rabbit populations in rural areas. Extreme care is needed especially around lifestyle block areas. All provisions of the gun laws must be complied with.