Warning on surge in rabbit numbers

Rueben HaleCountryman
Goldfields station owner David Geraghty.
Camera IconGoldfields station owner David Geraghty. Credit: Danella Bevis/Countryman

The Department of Agriculture and Food has warned that the State's rabbit population is expected to increase, after years of declining numbers caused by the man-made rabbit calicivirus.

DAFWA researcher Susan Campbell said there was every indication that WA's rabbit numbers are set to boom.

"We would like to maintain the numbers we saw post-calicivirus, which are low compared to pre-release," Dr Campbell said.

DAFWA is urging landholders throughout WA to keep an eye out for dead or diseased rabbits and report them to the agency.

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Dr Campbell said rabbit surveillance by the community and department was part of ongoing biological control research to address rabbit numbers.

"The initial release of the rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus in 1995 succeeded in suppressing rabbit numbers to varying extents throughout the landscape," Dr Campbell said.

"However, in recent times rabbit numbers have again begun to increase.

"Researchers are seeking reports of suspected RHDV or myxoma virus outbreaks to enable us to collect samples from rabbit carcasses and test for the prevalence of rabbit control viruses in WA.

"By testing for viruses and comparing the strains of viruses in WA to those present in the Eastern States, we will be better able to plan for effective future rabbit control."

Dr Campbell said an outbreak of RHDV would be evidenced by a noticeable drop in rabbit activity and possibly dead rabbits that showed no sign of injury or disease.

Goldfields cattle station owner David Geraghty recently purchased a 263ha and a 161ha property and immediately sought advice from the department about the rabbit numbers there.

"I'm new to the cattle industry in WA and from point of view there are too many rabbits here for my liking," Mr Geraghty said.

"I wish to work with the department to implement a multi-strategy. That would be a combination of calicivirus and 1080 baiting."


·They are an introduced species.

·They cost primary production millions of dollars each year.

·They compete with similar-sized native animals for shelter and food

·They are responsible for losses in Australia's plant biodiversity by removing seedlings and preventing regeneration.

Landowners can leave rabbits at their local DAFWA office or phone (08) 9368 3333.

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