Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group helps landholders put rabbits in their sights

Photo: Supplied.
Photo: Supplied.

The Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group (PHBG) are gearing up for their fourth calicivirus release.

With more than 100 properties registered last year, they predict this year to be even bigger. However, landholders only have until October 9 to register.

"In our second year of funding through the declared pest rate, the PHBG can now deliver programs like the calicivirus release to even more landholders," PHBG communications officer Teele Hooper-Worrell said.

"We often have landholders get in touch with the PHBG when their rabbit numbers are high. We want to encourage our landholders to engage earlier, that way the PHBG can help landholders develop a management plan that keeps rabbit numbers low. This prevents rabbit numbers reaching a point where sheds, gardens and pasture are being impacted."

Feral rabbits are a declared pest and it is a legal requirement that landholders control them.

Feral rabbits compete with livestock and native animals for food, cause soil erosion and can undermine structural foundations over time.

The PHBG is calling for landholders to register if they are interested in incorporating the RHDV1 K5 strain of the calicivirus into a wider management plan to control feral rabbits over the long term.

Community-wide action is more effective than individual efforts and the PHBG is encouraging neighbours to work together to extend control activities in their area.

A local shooter credits the virus with allowing him to keep on top of the rabbit numbers with follow up shooting.

"Before the release the rabbit population just ballooned. Now along with the virus release I am able to get back on top of them," the shooter said.

Landholder monitored sites in the Shires of Murray and Waroona recorded 31-50 and 11-20 rabbits per night respectively.

Monitoring conducted six weeks after the virus was released recorded only one rabbit per night at both sites. However, this impact can be short lived without follow up control action.

"The virus can be very effective at knocking down rabbit populations at a site but follow-up activities are crucial to a long term reduction in rabbit numbers.

"After the initial knockdown from a successful calicivirus release, survivors can be controlled using the traditional methods of destroying warrens, installing exclusion fencing and baiting," Ms Hooper-Worrell explained.

The PHBG encourages landholders to register before the cut-off date of October 9.

After this date registered landholders are required to pre-feed the rabbits, a crucial step that ensures the rabbits are more likely to ingest the inoculated pellets on the delivery date.

Landholders can register through the PHBG Facebook page, via the website, by calling 0474 242 223 or emailing feralanimals@phbg.org.