Spring heralds the birth of thousands of baby rabbits. Unless real positive steps are taken just before this happens, the rabbit population in any given area will explode, creating long term problems for gardens, paddocks, farm land and golf courses.
We all love to see those cute little fluffy bunnies, but mark my word, they soon change into devastating eating and breeding machines which once they gain a foot-hold will plague you for years to come.
I get lots of calls from people with rabbit problems asking if there is a quick fix…I’m afraid there is not. However with a properly thought out strategy and a Wildlife Management program employed, we can certainly contain them and move towards eradication over time.
So what techniques are available and at what time can they be used for Rabbit Control?
- Ferreting – using ferrets to chase the rabbits out of the burrows and into nets for despatch – used from November – March. Very effective and can clear an area quickly. We normally gas and fill in all the holes too to stop re-visits by any survivors.
- Gassing – Aluminium Phosphate gas tablets are placed in the rabbit hole and back filled, sealing them in. The gas kills very quickly – used all year round. Professionally trained use only and highly regulated.
- Snares and drop traps – Often frowned upon but quite effective on established rabbit runs – can be used any time but has strict legal requirements on the user – professional use only really.
- Shooting – use of air rifles is fairly in-effective except at close range, but Firearms like .22 and .17HMR are the choice of professionals. Use any time both day and night with a lamp and from high seats. Highly regulated and has strict legal requirements on the user with regards to use and safety.
Our strategy uses most or all of these techniques, depending on many factors including safety, number of rabbits, areas where the rabbits are.
First step is a survey, usually carried out in both daylight and at night (you get a much better picture in the night of population and routes into the area). Once we establish the facts, we can then put together a Wildlife Management Plan and go to work on them.
Currently, with the grass being quite short, shooting is my favourite technique and my weapon of choice is the .17HMR. This is an awesome bullet which has come back into popularity over the last few years. It is small than the .22 (the diameter of the bullet is .17 of and inch) and has a polymer tip, which is designed to disintegrate on impact with anything – even a blade of grass will do this – so it is intrinsically safe as you do not get ricochets from this bullet. The other advantage is the range – a .22 will have an effective killing range of 60 metres, but the .17HMR kills at over 200 metres. This means that the rabbits don’t have a clue where the danger is coming from so tend to sit. You can usually get 3 or 4 kills without disturbing other rabbits sitting in the area.
I am out most mornings these days at 5:30am as rabbits are a bit dopey first thing, so I can usually shot 10 – 15 rabbits in under an hour and then be off site before any people are about. By shooting the adult mature rabbits, you can quickly arrest the rate of young rabbits and control the population. This also needs to happen before the grass and nettle grow too high and offer a safe haven from which to launch feeding attacks from.
We always try to head shoot (90% are) as this is the quickest kill and you do not damage any meat on the rabbit – I cannot bare waste so it all goes into the food chain. Rabbit is still a sought after food source in many top restaurants, and is jolly good eating. The other 10% ends up in the boiling pot for the dogs dinner – so nothing goes to waste, which is important to me.
If you have a rabbit problem, contact us for advice and a survey. We can then discuss a suitable Wildlife Management program specifically designed for you.