Rabbit control in greater Geelong

To better understand what we’re doing to control rabbits, why we’re doing it and how you can help in your area, please read on.

Rabbits in the City

Rabbits breed very quickly. As a result, rabbit populations can multiply rapidly and spread over large areas if no effective control action is taken.

The damage that uncontrolled rabbit infestations can have on the environment, agriculture and our open spaces is enormous, costing Australian agriculture alone an estimated $600 million per year.

Pest control is a complex issue and there are often conflicting community views on what actions we should take to control rabbits.

We receive many questions from the community about rabbits and how they are being controlled, especially as they become more visible in suburban gardens, agricultural areas and City managed reserves.

Rabbit Control Plan 2019-2022 – in development

To successfully control rabbits on any reserve or parcel of land you need a long-term plan with an integrated management approach.

A strategic plan is vital if we hope to address rabbit issues across the entire Greater Geelong region, so we are currently developing a Rabbit Control Plan. We expect the Draft Plan to be available for public comment later in 2019.

This Plan will outline actions that will be taken to control rabbits on City land over the next four years and how associated risks will be managed.

The plan will also identify education and support programs for the community and outline how we will work in partnership with Landcare groups and other environment organisations.

Pre-draft consultation occurred in September 2019.

Rabbit baiting program trial 2019

The City completed a trial of its new pindone baiting program from 4 May to 4 June 2019 after what was essentially a two year hiatus.

The new program incorporated best practice risk mitigation processes, including detailed site planning and preparation for each location. Key risk mitigation measures included:

  • installing temporary fencing to either close the reserve or close public access to the baiting area
  • placing signage around the baiting areas
  • laying the Pindone bait later in the afternoon and
  • collecting any leftover bait or deceased rabbits early the following morning for twelve days after the third and final poison feed was laid.

The trial occurred at six reserves:

  1. Mount Brandon Peninsula (Barwon and Moorabool River Reserve) in Highton
  2. Waurn Ponds Creek (between Rossack Drive and Pioneers Road) in Grovedale
  3. Drysdale Leopold Pony Club at 51-59 Reserve Road in Drysdale
  4. Lara Recreation Reserve in Alkara Avenue at Lara
  5. Haines Reserve at 1A Wilks Street in Hamlyn Heights and
  6. Hovell’s Creek (Windermere Road to Forest Road North) in Lara.

Pre and post spotlight counts indicate that the rabbit numbers at these sites was reduced by 497 rabbits (86 percent). The daily, morning inspections found a total of only eight rabbit carcasses across all six sites. Carcasses found accounted for only 2 percent of the indicated reduction in the population. This supports the literature that states that the vast majority of rabbits that consume pindone will die in their burrows/warrens.

No native wildlife was found sick or deceased at any of the six sites. There were no reports of any dogs consuming the bait during the baiting period.

Warren treatments

Knights Road (Queenscliff Road end)

Over 200 warrens were fumigated and over 640 entrances closed in August 2019.

Permission has been granted from the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) to impact the roadside native vegetation (to the minimum extent necessary) during implosion and ripping activities. Please note that we will be very careful to have as little impact on the native vegetation present as possible. Warren ripping and implosion activities will occur in September 2019.

Bellarine Rail Trail

Warrens have been mapped from Leopold to the Drysdale Train Station in preparation for control activities. Warrens will be fumigated, ripped and imploded in the coming September /October.

Mt Brandon Peninsula

Warrens have been mapped at in preparation for warren fumigation and destruction activities.

Lara Recreation Reserve

Harbour (including boxthorn) was removed and warrens ripped in June 2019.

Community support

The City provided assistance to the Batesford, Stonehaven & Fyansford Landcare Group and the Barrabool Hills Landcare Group with their baiting programs by performing a mail out to properties in their target areas.

The City also supported the Bellarine Landcare Group’s Rabbit Control Workshop event that was held in May. We completed a large mail out of the flyer, contributed to the costs of running the event and I attended on the day.

Responsibility for rabbit control

Every landowner is responsible for the control of rabbits on their land.

We are responsible for controlling rabbits on City owned and managed land. We also can play a role in raising awareness of the harm rabbits cause, promote and encourage best practice control techniques and support local Landcare groups to coordinate local control programs.

Agriculture Victoria is responsible for overseeing and enforcing rabbit control under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994.

Prioritising rabbit control activities

Best practice rabbit control involves a coordinated effort of baiting, destroying warrens and removing harbour (anything rabbits can hide under such as weedy bushes, old stockpiles, fencing materials) while encouraging other land holders within the vicinity to do the same.

Baiting typically occurs in late summer/early autumn when local rabbit populations have stopped breeding and the entire population are feeding above ground at night.

In general, we prioritise control activities at locations where:

  • we can partner with and coordination our efforts with adjoining landholders, public land managers and Landcare groups
  • high biodiversity values are present or to protect assets such as sporting fields, buildings and walking tracks.

Making rabbit control effective

Rabbit control efforts are constrained by many factors, including:

  • the large area of land that we manage, and the range of landscapes and habitats within it
  • our finite resources (budget and time)
  • community safety and wellbeing concerns and/or perceptions of risk
  • native vegetation laws
  • cultural heritage laws
  • laws regulating to management around waterways (this is a particularly complex issue).

Control rabbits on your property

  • Remember – coordinated action brings the best results.
  • Get together with your neighbors and talk about how you might work together to control rabbits in your area.
  • Visit the Pest Smart website or the Agriculture Victoria website for more advice.
  • Contact your local Landcare Group to be involved in rabbit control in your area.
  • The Victorian Rabbit Action Network (VRAN) also have many useful videos on their YouTube channel.

Need to know more...

Keep up to date with our rabbit control program in 2020 by visiting this page. Contact us by phone on 03 5272 5272 and ask to speak to someone about rabbit control or email environment@geelongcity.vic.gov.au.

Page last updated: Wednesday, 22 January 2020