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The feral European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) arrived in Australia with the First Fleet, and today is one of the most abundant mammals in Australia. It causes severe damage to the natural environment, agriculture and, increasingly, urban areas.
The feral rabbit and the domestic rabbit are the same species. Released, or escaped, domestic rabbits will readily interbreed with feral rabbits. In the Sydney region, rabbits typically breed all year round due to high rainfall and good pasture conditions.
Under NSW legislation, all landowners with rabbits on their property, including councils, are responsible for their control.
The impacts of feral rabbits in urban areas can be vast and diverse. Examples of rabbit-related impact can include damage to suburban parks, picnic areas, sports fields, residential gardens, nature strips, footpaths and road verges.
In urban areas, a combination of traditional control techniques and biological control help reduce feral rabbit populations and minimises the damage they cause.
Council is focused on managing rabbits in the Milperra area. Fumigation and trapping has not proven successful, so a controlled baiting program was conducted in June 2016 at Newlands Reserve. The NSW Government-approved pesticide pindone was used and an 80 per cent reduction in the rabbit population was achieved. While effective at Newland Reserve, the pindone baiting program had little impact elsewhere in Milperra.
The next stage of rabbit control is to evaluate the effectiveness of using a biological control. Council has been approved to participate in the national release of a new biological rabbit control called RHDV1 K5 (a type of calicivirus). The control is only harmful to rabbits.
A rabbit trap loan service will also continue to be offered to Milperra residents.
The calicivirus is only harmful to rabbits. Humans, cats, dogs and native animals will not become ill if the bait (or an affected rabbit) is consumed.
Residents with pet rabbits are encouraged to practice responsible pet ownership and ensure vaccinations are current.
For more information, go to the FeralScan website, the NSW Department of Environment and Heritage website, as well as Council's Responsible pet ownership page.