Rabbits (Oryctolagis cuniculus)

Rabbits were introduced into the Australian mainland during the second half of the 19th century and, despite many different control measures being applied, are still prevalent throughout the country. The term “breeding like rabbits” arises due to the young breeding age (3 to 4 months) that rabbits begin to breed and the number of young that they can have in each litter (average 4 to 6, but up to 10). Female rabbits can deliver 20 to 30 “kittens” each year and may increase reproduction in response to short-term population control programs. Within 2 hours of giving birth rabbits can re-mate.

Rabbits are a declared pest in Western Australia and, as such, landholders are required to control rabbits on their properties.

Rabbit populations along the metropolitan coast fluctuate seasonally according to the availability of food and fresh water. Irrigated private lawns and public grassed areas provide excellent habitat for rabbits. Consistent with these trends, the Town of Cottesloe has had varying numbers of rabbit populations inhabiting the area.

The only approach to managing this pest is to remain vigilant and act when populations reach a level that is notably impacting upon coastal dune vegetation, and particularly revegetation programs with seedlings.

In 2008, Perth Region Natural Resource Management (formerly named Swan Catchment Council) funded the Metropolitan Regional Rabbit Control Program.

The aim of this program was to target the population of wild rabbits living in the coastal reserves of eight Local Governments in the metropolitan region, from Wanneroo in the north to Kwinana in the south. Rabbit populations had reached densities that had caused destruction of valuable native coastal vegetation and posed a significant threat to our plant and animal communities, as recognized by the federal government’s ‘Caring for our Country’ environment strategy.

This successful multi-jurisdictional rabbit control program utilised various methods including baiting and warren fumigation.. An extensive monitoring program carried out at 45 sites concluded an overall average of 92% reduction in rabbit numbers occurred across the metropolitan coastal reserves, with significant anecdotal evidence indicating a reduction in rabbit activity at many important community coastcare rehabilitation sites.

The program was conducted according to methods of rabbit control approved by the Department of Agriculture, using licensed contractors and deemed suitable to each particular area of coastal reserve. Particular attention was paid to native animal populations and land usage, to ensure risk to other animals and users would be negligible.