Virus targeting feral rabbits to be released in Macarthur soon

Owners of pet rabbits have been urged to vaccinate their bunnies ahead of the roll-out of a baiting program in Macarthur.

Greater Sydney Local Land Services will begin a feral rabbit reduction program in the area next month, to curb the number of wild rabbits causing agricultural and environmental damage.

Pet rabbits are just as susceptible to the baiting program as wild rabbits, so it is important owners ensure their furry friends are protected.

Land services biosecurity team leader Lee Parker said the virus was originally set for release in October, but was postponed due to wet conditions and a high number of young rabbits in Macarthur.

“This program involves the release of the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus, commonly known as RHDV1-K5,” he said.

“This virus doesn’t spread as quickly in wet weather and baby rabbits are immune, which is why the decision was made to hold off.

“As always, we urge owners of pet rabbits to vaccinate their animals as soon as possible to ensure they are not impacted by the virus.

“The virus is spread mainly by contact between rabbits or via insects such as mosquitoes and flies.

“RHDV only affects rabbits and if pets are vaccinated, they become immune.”

The virus will be released from February 21 in Lakesland, Bargo, Wedderburn and Campbelltown.

Mr Parker said the release was the third of its king, following the initial program roll-out in March 2017.

That release led to a 42 per cent reduction in feral rabbit numbers across NSW.

“This program is designed to complement ongoing control efforts on private and public land,” Mr Parker said.

“We encourage landholders experiencing issues with feral rabbits to continue working with us to roll out coordinated control compaigns in partnership with their neighbours wherever possible.”

Feral rabbits are a declared pest in NSW. They are believed to have contributed to the decline or extinction of a number of NSW native species including the greater bilby and the yellow footed rock-wallaby.

Their overgrazing is estimated to cost Australian agriculture more than $200 million every year.

Details: 4724 2100.