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Feral rabbits

Feral rabbits

Updated 4 February 2022 10:32am

A farm post gnawed through by rabbits

Why are feral rabbits a problem?

Feral rabbits are a significant agricultural and ecological pest. They:

  • Eat trees, native grasses and seedlings
  • Compete directly with grazing stock for food
  • Increase the risk of soil erosion
  • Contribute to the increase of unpalatable weed species

More about rabbits.

How to protect trees and land

The best way to control rabbits is through a combination of these methods. 

Repel them and fence them out

  • Repellents

Spray or paint chemical repellents on trees and shrubs to discourage rabbit browsing. Start this when the tree is first planted and continue as the plant grows and weathers. Buy these from Akura Nursery.

  • Fencing

Stopping rabbits from accessing your property or garden is the best long term method of control in urban areas. Exclusion fences need to be at least 80cm high, 20cm in the ground with a maximum mesh size of 3 cm. Trees can be protected with netting cylinders, plastic sheaths or steel guards. 

Reduce their numbers

  • Shooting

Control rabbits in rural areas by shooting at night with a spotlight and a .22 rifle or shotgun. You must follow all legal and safety requirements for firearms

  • Poisoning

Use Pindone pellets in bait stations in areas where rabbits have been grazing and scratching. This a slow-acting anti-coagulant poison and is more effective in autumn and winter when there is less food available. Pindone must be used in bait stations unless you have an approved handler to place it on the ground. Contact us to request this charged service. We make up a more effective Pindone carrot for application on the ground. More about Pindone…

Contact us for more information and advice.

Controlling rabbits with calicivirus

Three variations of the rabbit haemorrhagic calicivirus (RHDV1, RHDV1 K5 and RHDV2) are known to be in New Zealand and have controlled wild rabbit populations to varying degrees.

The virus spreads between rabbits and a rabbit dies quickly once it begins to show symptoms. The virus only affects rabbits and hares, and does not affect cats, dogs or any other animals.

A variation of the virus was released in 2018 as New Zealand's feral rabbits had become increasingly immune to the RHDV1 strain. This was released on private land or in some areas where there is minimal public access.

This virus should help reduce rabbit numbers to the level where they are manageable by other control methods.

Find more information about this virus from Landcare Research and Ministry for Primary Industries.

Vaccinate pet rabbits

Contact your local vet to vaccinate pet rabbits for protection from the RHD virus.

Pet rabbits should be vaccinated from 10 weeks of age, and boosters given according to your vet's recommendation.

More information

Bionet’s monitoring and control good practice guidelines

Bionet - information about pests and disease in New Zealand

Rabbit damage to a young tree

Feral rabbits are significant agricultural and ecological pest. They:

-  eat trees, native grasses and seedlings 

-  compete directly with grazing stock for food 

-  increase the risk of soil erosion 

-  contribute to the increase of unpalatable weed species 

More about rabbits [link to DOC:]