Community control of rabbit populations on the agenda

Invasive Species Biosecurity Manager Annie Lamb spoke with the Emerald community about rabbit control on the evening of Wednesday, June 22. IMAGE: PROVIDED

By Tyler Wright

Emerald’s Wild Rabbit population was a hot topic of conversation at the Hills Hub on Wednesday, June 22 at a meeting hosted by the Emerald Wild Rabbit Group with help from the Emerald Village Association.

Annie Lamb, Biosecurity Manager for Invasive Species, was a guest speaker at the event and shared her expertise on various methods of controlling rabbit populations.

Wild Rabbit Group founder and local resident Yvette Hayes said there were between 30 and 40 participants engaged overnight.

“[Rabbits] digging under houses and in gardens at the moment… [was] a gentleman who mentioned it was going to cost him a substantial amount of money (nearly $12,000) to replace a retaining wall from the damage they had done,” Yvette said.

“They scratch the gardens, they eat things that people don’t want them to eat and dig up…if you’re on an acreage and [using] a riding lawn mower, the ground where they dug is quite bumpy and difficult.

According to Agriculture Victoria, an estimated $200 million lost production is caused by European rabbits each year.

According to the ministry, even a low number of species can have a devastating effect on tree-planting programs or intensive horticultural operations, cause damage to grain crops and lead to a significant reduction in crop yields in some areas.

“Often in areas where you have very high numbers of rabbits… the native grasses are all gone, all the trees and shrubs, they chew the bark deep inside them so they sound native species of bark” , said Annie Lamb, biosecurity manager.

“If there’s no grass to eat, they’ll eat trees and shrubs so they chew up all the little shoots that come out of the trunk, they’ll eat those as well and eventually kill the plants,” Annie said.

“If you have things like cattle, cattle, sheep [or] horses in a paddock and you have warrens, there is a risk that the animals will walk into the warrens and break their legs or injure themselves.

The European rabbit is thought to be most common in non-arable environments, including streams, river banks, erosion gullies, and rocky outcrops.

Annie Lamb said there are no active rabbit monitoring programs in the Dandenong Ranges, but there is an app called “Feral Scan” run by locals at the Invasive Animal Cooperative Research Center that the inhabitants can download on their smartphone or their tablet and which displays the figures (still absent for the locality of emerald).

“I think everyone – once they took a look at this – was pretty keen to start using it and putting data into it so we could get an idea of ​​how many rabbits and their fluctuations over the years,” Annie said.

For Yvette Hayes, who started the wild rabbit group Emerald via Facebook in October 2021, the coming months before summer mark an important time to prepare for a community-led population control effort.

“We can use very targeted measures as advised by the Ministry of Agriculture. These include [control] for very small areas, baiting which must be done by someone with an ACUP certificate, and can be used in open areas as long as there is no risk of harming native environments, native animals or pets,” she said.

“Then there’s fumigation where you have to have a registered person fumigate burrows, this is used around waterways and sensitive areas, and finally we have warren tearing, but they all have to happen around this period of February, March, April and it must be a neighborhood effort.

To learn more about rabbit management, visit