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.

Feedback welcome for Draft Rabbit Control Plan 2020-2024

The Draft Rabbit Control Plan outlines how the City will control rabbits on City-managed land, while supporting the wider community to reduce rabbit impacts more broadly.

The draft plan outlines how the City will control rabbits on City-managed land and support the broader community to reduce rabbit impacts.

The Draft Rabbit Control Plan 2020-2024:

  • describes the impacts rabbits have in our region
  • identifies rabbit prone locations and priority areas for control
  • sets out a methodology for effective rabbit control
  • outlines our rabbit control commitments and guiding principles
  • states our vision and goals
  • contains an action plan to be completed over the next four years.

Read the draft plan and provide your comments.

The closing date for feedback is 25 August 2020.

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.

Rabbits are Australia’s most serious pest herbivore. Only one rabbit per hectare will stop the growth and regeneration of native plants. Rabbits also promote the spread of noxious weed species such as Boxthorn and Gorse.

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 complaints from the community about rabbits, especially as they become more visible in suburban gardens, agricultural areas and City managed reserves.

Our rabbit control program has been developed using expert advice, including information provided by Agriculture Victoria and the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions.

The recent expansion of the City’s rabbit control program has been made possible by the Restoring Rural Landscapes program. This City-funded, landscape restoration program has greatly increased the resources available for pest plant and animal control activities on City-managed reserves and roadsides.

Please watch this video to learn more about why rabbits are such a big problem in the Geelong region. A big thank you to Sophie and Geoff from the Bellarine Landcare Group for sharing their time and expertise.

Rabbit baiting program 2020

Following the success of the 2019 trial, the City completed a pindone baiting program in April and May 2020 to reduce very high rabbit numbers at ten City managed reserves. The program successfully reduced the number of rabbits causing environment degradation and damage to recreational facilities and community infrastructure.  

Pindone baiting occurred at the following City managed reserves:

  1. Drysdale Pony Club, Reserve Road, Drysdale
  2. Griggs Creek, Curlewis
  3. Hovells Creek (Windermere Road to Forest Road North), Lara.
  4. Lake Lorne, Reserve Road, Drysdale
  5. Limeburner’s East, Avalon
  6. McLeod’s Waterholes, Drysdale
  7. Mount Brandon Peninsula (Barwon & Moorabool River Reserve), Highton
  8. Mount Duneed Recreation Reserve, Mount Duneed
  9. Ted Wilson Trail (Ballarat Road to Church St), Hamlyn Heights (in partnership with Regional Roads Victoria)
  10. Waurn Ponds Creek (Rossack Drive to Pioneer Road), Grovedale (in partnership with the Waurn Ponds Shopping Centre)

Baiting was performed by Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (Agriculture Victoria) approved pest controllers.

Extensive efforts were taken at each site to reduce the risk of other animals or humans coming into contact with pindone, which was be laid in the form of baited carrots and oats. We installed temporary fencing, closed public access to some sections of the reserves and placed extensive signage around the baiting areas.

Neighbours of the reserves being baited were notified via mail prior to the program commencing. The letter stated that dogs must be kept on a lead in these reserves and that the baiting areas were closed to the public during the baiting period. The letter also mentioned that there is an antidote to pindone and that dog owners should contact their local vet if they are concerned that their dog has been poisoned.

Any leftover bait or deceased rabbits were collected every morning during the program and for twelve days after the third and final poison feed was laid.

As with our previous baiting programs, no native wildlife was found sick or deceased at any of the sites and we received no reports of any dogs consuming the bait or deceased rabbits.  

Pre and post spotlight counts indicate that the rabbit numbers at these sites was reduced by 313 rabbits (89 percent).

Other rabbit control activities in 2019-2020

Knights Road (Queenscliff Road end)

Over 200 warrens were fumigated and over 640 entrances closed.

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.

Manifold Road, St Leonards

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.

232 warrens with 627 entrances have been fumigated and manually collapsed. A total of 4.14 tonnes of bower spinach, sea berry saltbush and fallen timber was taken to the Drysdale Transfer Station and 3 sheoak limbs were removed. No other native species were impacted during these works.

Bellarine Rail Trail

Warrens have been mapped from Leopold to the Drysdale Train Station in preparation for control activities. Warrens were fumigated from Leopold to Curlewis Road.

Mt Brandon Peninsula

Warrens have been mapped and warrens fumigated.

Lara Recreation Reserve

Harbour (including boxthorn) was removed and warrens ripped.

Community support

The City provided assistance to the Batesford, Stonehaven and 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 2019. 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 [email protected].

Page last updated: Thursday, 2 July 2020