Successful Rabbit Control Operations in Canterbury

1 October 2008

A LINZ rabbit control operation in Canterbury has been a success.

The $350,000 poisoning operation was carried out by LINZ to help reduce burgeoning rabbit numbers over 4,000 hectares of riverbed in the Clarence, Hapuku, Waiau, Hurunui, Rakaia, Maerewhenua and Hakataramea Rivers. The work was done as part of a wider operation involving adjoining landowners, and carried out after monitoring by Environment Canterbury indicated rabbit numbers had grown rapidly.

LINZ biosecurity portfolio manager David Morgan says the poisoning was followed-up with night shooting expeditions to pick off as many survivors as possible, and assess the effectiveness of the poison drops. “Rabbits tend to go into a bit of a breeding frenzy when their numbers have been knocked back, so it’s important to counter that.”

He says the operation has clearly made a big dent in rabbit numbers, and water monitoring after the poison operations revealed no contamination.

Given the sensitive nature of pest control operations near water, the work took careful planning. This started with identifying the areas of Crown responsibility for pest control, David explains.

“In some areas, the Crown is responsible for the riverbed. In others, the adjoining landowners have AMF [Ad Medium Filum Aquae] rights which extend their responsibilities to the centreline of the river.”

The poisoning was preceded by consultation with adjoining landowners and groups such as Fish and Game, Forest and Bird, and iwi. David says the choice of poison (either 1080 or the anticoagulant Pindone) and the application method (ground or aerial application) was dictated partly by feedback from this consultation. “The proximity to flowing water and the type of terrain also played a part,” he adds.

Given the generally poor weather this winter, the pest control operators, contracted for LINZ through Landward Management Ltd, had a surprisingly clear run for their work.

David says the operation was a success, and the experience has revealed the importance of good planning and plenty of lead time for any future rabbit control work – right down to making sure enough carrots have been planted to use as baits.

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