Rabbits on the hop
by Brianna Piazza
9th February 2015
BRADLEYS Lane residents have launched a campaign to rid their street of rabbits, saying they are destroying gardens, causing erosion along the banks of the Yarra River and competing with native wildlife for food and habitat.
A group of residents have held a meeting with Nillumbik council hoping to mobilise local support for a pest controller to come out in March or April to bait the rabbits with Pindone, a poison commonly used to control rabbits in Victoria.
Their proposed baiting program would require around 20 days, with the poison generally taking six to 10 days to work, affecting the rabbits’ livers and causing them to die from internal bleeding.
One of the residents leading the campaign, Janice Davies, says 20 people in her street have expressed their concerns about the damage caused by rabbits.
“Over the last year we have noticed a lot more rabbit droppings across our property,” Mrs Davies said.
“I also planted a whole lot of native grass one day and I thought I’d put barriers around them in the morning but by the time I went out the next morning the rabbits had already eaten the grass down to ground level.
“This campaign is about getting as many people in the street involved as possible. We’re taking people’s concerns on board and we’re finding out how to do it without harming pets.”
Another Bradleys Lane resident, Paul Fitzsimons, noticed rabbit numbers increasing when they started destroying his garden last year.
“We plant native vegetation to attract wildlife so when rabbits come along and eat it all, it’s very costly and very frustrating,” Paul said.
Mrs Davies says Nillumbik council has offered to pay for half of the associated costs for hiring a pest controller, bringing the cost to $60 per household.
Nillumbik mayor Helen Coleman says council regularly offers subsidies when residents form a local rabbit action group.
However, the Diary didn’t receive confirmation that council would provide assistance for Bradleys Lane residents at the time of publication.
The anti-rabbit proposal comes as Melbourne Water and Parks Victoria
plan to launch their own rabbit-baiting programs along the Yarra River and through the state park.
Janice says while Melbourne Water and Parks Victoria support the plan, they cannot provide financial assistance.
The Diar y understands residents would have a greater chance of drastically reducing the rabbit population around Bradleys Lane if they start their program around the same time that Melbourne Water and Parks Victoria commence their rabbit control program this year.
A rabbit baiting program involving the Osborne Peninsula Landcare Group about four years ago inspired
the group of Bradleys Lane residents to start informing neighbours about the issue and gauging support for a unified pest control plan.
It’s estimated about 80 percent of residents in Osborne Rd, Hamilton Rd and Koornong Cres were involved in the Osborne Peninsula Landcare Group program.
Ann Penrose, who is part of the Osborne Peninsula Landcare Group, says the high number of households involved made the program successful at reducing rabbit numbers.
“We have baited every year, usually around February or March,” Mrs Penrose said.
“For the first three years we baited the whole peninsula but eventually we managed to get the rabbit numbers down so low that we didn’t have to do all of the area.”
However, rabbits have few natural predators and with females known to have up to 14 babies per litter several times a year, Ann warns that rabbit populations can quickly become out of control.
“We have noticed there’s an increasing number of rabbits recently and we can never eliminate rabbits – only control them. That’s where educating the community comes in,” Mrs Penrose said.
“Controlling rabbit populations is on-going and it’s the residents’ responsibility to keep their properties clear of rabbits.”
Nationally, rabbits are estimated to cost more than $200 million a year in control measures and lost productivity, and as Bradleys Lane resident Cameron Bailey knows, rabbits can affect one neighbour but not the next.
“I’ve only seen one rabbit on my property in the two and a half years that I’ve been living here,” Cameron said.
“They’re not a problem on our property but I would probably support the plan because we’re all for removing non-native wildlife.”
Some have expressed reservations about the plan.
“I’d be happy to get on board if there’s enough residents on board and it’s likely to be effective,” Paul Fitzsimons said.
“In the meantime, we’ve taken our own immediate steps to address the measure. Since we put in fences everything has been fine and our chocolate lilies are starting to come up again but if you fence all of your property then there’s the issue of limiting the movement of animals.”
Others say rabbits are causing problems across Warrandyte, including Mitchell Ave, Gold Memorial Rd, West End Rd and along the Mullum Trail.
One Warrandyte resident commented on the Diary’s Facebook page that she rolled her ankle while playing cricket in her backyard in a rabbit hole that appeared overnight.
Elizabeth Wood, who lives in Stiggants St, says she has been baiting her property for years, yet rabbits are still eating away at her garden.
“I have been killing the rabbits but as I get rid of one lot a new lot move in,” Elizabeth said.
“The rabbits live in Stiggants Reserve and the church yard where there is an area of undergrowth. We have asked for it to be cleaned up to no avail at this stage.”
Campaigners hope baiting will begin in March or April, with Mrs Davies indicating the plan could still go ahead with 20 participants.
“Even with 20 residents we would still have a really good chance of reducing the damage that rabbits are causing to vegetation around our street, but of course, the more people involved the more success you’re likely to have,” she said.