• Tony Bosworth

Feral rabbit control program rolls out in the Hawkesbury – vaccinate your pet rabbits now

Rabbit owners in the Hawkesbury are being urged to vaccinate their pets before a new feral rabbit control program rolls out this month with the release of the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus.

Led by Greater Sydney Local Land Services with the support of large landholders, local councils and environmental agencies, the program will see the release of the virus known as RHDV1-K5 (RHDV) throughout the Greater Sydney region.

Areas in the Hawkesbury to be targeted are Grose Vale, North Richmond, and Kurrajong.

Grose Vale resident Megan Lawrence is one of the landholders taking part after spotting rabbits on the roadside of her four hectare property.

“Then the damage started to the ground and we kept losing tubestock down the back where are trying to revegetate to encourage native wildlife,” she said.

A passionate gardener and nature lover, Ms Lawrence said she was attracted to the RHDV program because it was straightforward and benefited the broader environment.

Grose Vale landholder Megan Lawrence explains to a biosecurity officer where she has seen rabbits on her property

“My husband is an environmental scientist and I grew up on property in the Colo so we understand the importance of caring for the land properly and that includes managing pest animals,” she said.

“This is basically a set and forget control program that will not only benefit the environment but the community as well.”

Greater Sydney Biosecurity Officer Jacob French said feral rabbits were a major agricultural and environmental pest, contributing to the decline and extinction of several NSW native species and costing the Australian economy more than $200m in production losses each year.

“This is the fifth release of RHDV since the national program began in 2017, since then we have seen an estimated 42 per cent reduction in the feral rabbit population in NSW, so it’s essential we continue to support landholders and local councils to reduce the ongoing impact of these pests,” he said.

Mr French said it was important domestic rabbit owners went to their local vets to vaccinate their pets before the February 17 release.

“The virus is spread mainly by contact between rabbits or via insects such as mosquitos and flies, meaning it can travel significant distances. Importantly, RHDV doesn’t affect any other animals and if domestic rabbits are vaccinated, they become immune to it.”

“This program is designed to complement ongoing control efforts on private and public land,” he said.

“We encourage landholders experiencing issues with feral rabbits to continue working with us throughout the year and report feral rabbit damage,” said Mr French.

Feral rabbits are a declared pest in NSW, due to the significant amount of agricultural and environmental damage they cause.

The program will also be rolled out in Annangrove, Avalon Beach, Balgowlah Heights, Bella Vista, Berowra, Berowra Heights, Bilgola Plateau, Castle Hill, Chatswood, Collaroy, Cromer, Davidson, East Lindfield, Glenhaven, Gordon, Ingleside, Kariong, Katoomba, Kenthurst, Killara, Kulnara, Lindfield, Macquarie Park, Manly, Marsfield, Maraylya, Mona Vale, Mosman, Mount Colah, Mount Ku-ring-gai, Narrabeen, Narraweena, Newport, North Epping, North Turramurra, North Wahroonga, Palm Beach, Pymble, Roseville Chase, Rouse Hill, Ryde, Seaforth, South Turramurra, Spring Farm, Somersby, St Ives Chase, St Ives, Tahmoor, Turramurra, Wahroonga, Warrawee, West Pennant Hills, West Pymble, and West Riverstone.

For more information contact Greater Sydney Local Land Services on 1300 795 299.

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