Rabbits in Australia
Domesticated rabbits were first brought to Australia with the First Fleet in 1788. The first wild rabbit population was established on the mainland after 24 rabbits were released in Geelong, Victoria in 1859. They adapted extremely well to Australian conditions and multiplied rapidly, spreading across the country as far as north Queensland in little over 20 years. Australia now contains the largest feral rabbit population in the world.
Rabbits in Pittwater
The feral rabbit population is increasing at an alarming rate throughout the Northern Beaches Local Government Area and is partly attributable to the accidental or deliberate release of pet rabbits into bushland as well as suburban areas.
Feral rabbits are mostly concentrated headland reserves where there has been a visible increase in land degradation and a decrease in species diversity. However, rabbits are also found in smaller bushland reserves, golf courses, sporting fields and private properties where they can harbour in the vegetation and graze on open lawn.
Rabbits destroy native bushland and out-compete native animals. The current increase in the rabbit population on the Northern Beaches is attributed to the accidental or deliberate release of pet rabbits into bushland as well as suburban areas. Rabbits are mostly concentrated along the fragile urban fringe where there has been a visible increase in land degradation and a decrease in species diversity. Rabbits also favor smaller fragmented bushland reserves and private properties where they can harbor in the vegetation and graze on open lawn.
I have rabbits on my property, what can I do?
- where possible fence the property to keep the rabbits out
- place blood and bone around the garden to deter them or spray plants with a chili and garlic mix
- hire a trap from Council or contact a vertebrate pest controller to have them removed
- trapped rabbits can be taken to Pittwater Animal Hospital to be humanely euthanised with no charge to customers
What is Council doing about the rabbits?
Council controls rabbits in reserves owned or managed by Council where it can be done safely by:
- shooting by a professional shooter
- warren fumigation
- biological control
Rabbit baiting poses a risk to other animals, such as bandicoots and possums so this method is not used.
Council cannot control rabbits on private property or reserves owned by the State government.
What the law says about rabbits
- Owners of public and private land are required to “fully and continuously suppress and destroy” rabbits on their land under the Rural Lands Protection Act 1998.
- Competition and land degradation by feral rabbits is listed as a key threat to endangered Australian native animals and Ecological Communities under the Commonwealth Endangered Species Protection Act 1992.
- The release of non-native animals without a license (apart from homing pigeons) is prohibited under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.
- Abandoning animals is prohibited under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, with a maximum penalty of $5500 or 6 months jail.
Rabbits are a problem because they:
- Destroy native vegetation communities by eating native seedlings, digging and increasing soil nutrients (from their droppings)
- Increase erosion by grazing and digging
- Damage lawns, gardens and playing fields by grazing and digging warrens
- Eat the seedlings of native and garden plants, reducing native plant biodiversity and damaging gardens
- Compete with native animals for food and shelter.
- Provide a key food source to another feral animal, the fox.
If you do own a rabbit:
- The keeping of cats, ferrets and rabbits on the western foreshores is prohibited.
- Don’t dump the rabbit on public property. Find it new owners or take it to the RSPCA Animal Shelter or Animal Welfare League