Wild rabbits

Rabbits are regarded as agriculture’s most costly pest, estimated to impact on agricultural production by $200 million a year. They are also a significant threat to biodiversity affecting the survival of more than 300 plant and animal species.

Releasing calicivirus RHDV K5 to boost rabbit control

We are releasing calicivirus RHDV K5 at strategic South Australian locations throughout September 2019 to:

  • help reduce feral rabbit populations across the landscape
  • boost landholders use of conventional control techniques.

This release is an important tool for managing our serious feral rabbit problem in regional and rural areas. To help achieve long term benefits from this release we recommend that landholders continue to manage rabbits using conventional control techniques.

The RHDV K5 strain is a naturally occuring variant of the existing virus that is already widespread in Australia. It will only infect the European rabbit and is not detrimental to humans, other domestic pets or native wildlife.

District release sites are shown on this map (JPG 534.2 KB) and the dates for the virus release are:

  • 3 September 2019 - OB Flat, Mil Lel and Millicent
  • 4 September 2019 - Avenue Range, Wild Dog Valley and Lochaber
  • 5 September 2019 - Willalooka
  • 10 September 2019 - Waitpinga
  • 11 September 2019 - Browns Well
  • 12 September 2019 - Long Valley and Wistow
  • 13 September 2019 - Eyre Peninsula
  • 16 September 2019 - Central Hills
  • 18 September 2019 - Flaxley
  • 19 September 2019 - Coromandel East Rabbit Group
  • Through September and October 2019 - Arid Lands.

This release follows on from a nationally coordinated release of the RHDV K5 virus in 2017. Before the strain was released State and territory governments made sure:

  • there would be maximum impact on wild rabbit populations
  • the necessary approvals and governance arrangements were in place.

Further information on the national release of RHDV K5 is available on the PestSmart website.

Protecting domestic rabbits from RHDV K5

The calicivirus vaccine, administered by vets, is effective against the RHDV K5 strain and will help protect domestic rabbits. Learn more about protecting pet rabbits from calicivirus in South Australia (PDF 356.8 KB)

Help map the spread of RHDV K5 in your region

Help map the spread of the virus in your region by reporting finds of dead rabbits to the RabbitScan app or online. A diseases sampling kit will be mailed to you with instructions for collecting and sending samples to be tested for the disease.

The free app can be downloaded through the iTunes and Google Play stores by searching for ‘Rabbit Scan’.

This project is funded from the Federal Government’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.

Controlling rabbits on your property

Landholders are responsible for the satisfactory control of wild rabbits on their properties under the Natural Resources Management Act 2004 .

The keeping, movement and sale of rabbits is prohibited on offshore islands (excluding Wardang Island). Landholders should also notify their regional Natural Resources Management (NRM) board if wild rabbits are found on offshore islands.

PIRSA’s State Rabbit Control Coordinator works with existing landholder groups and industry to improve rabbit control activities by:

  • providing technical and logistical support
  • supporting strategic control through best practice
  • working with on-ground Natural Resources staff.

Conventional control methods

Conventional control methods include:

  • poison baiting particularly in late summer and early autumn
  • warren ripping
  • warren fumigation
  • monitoring.

Detailed rabbit control and monitoring techniques are available on the:

Baiting with 1080

Contact your regional NRM board for information on how to get, store and use 1080 baits on your property.

Landholders and managers are reminded that they will have to sign an 'Approval to Possess 1080 and PAPP Bait' form when they collect baits from their local NRM officer. If they can't collect baits in person, they must nominate a collecting agent and fill out an Approval for Nominated Agent to Collect form (PDF 101.0 KB). The agent must bring this completed form with them to collect the baits.

Notifying neighbours before using poison baits

You must notify all neighbours before using any poison baits on a property.

You can use the neighbour notification letter template for baiting rabbits (PDF 332.1 KB or DOCX 20.3 KB).

All notifications must be recorded on a Neighbour notification record sheet (PDF 370.0 KB or DOCX 22.9 KB) and kept for 2 years.

Using 1080 safely

When using 1080 baits always read the Material Safety Data Sheets and follow the directions of use:

Biological control

The biological control agents used to manage wild rabbits are:

  • Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) which is transmitted by flies and direct contact between rabbits.
  • Myxoma virus which is transmitted by two species of imported rabbit fleas, mosquitoes, and direct contact between rabbits.

You can support the spread of biological control agents by leaving infected rabbit carcasses where they died. Conventional control methods should be continued.

For information on purchasing RHDV1 K5 vials as part of your control program please contact the NSW Department of Primary Industries Virology Laboratory:


Wild rabbit control advice

Natural Resources website (Department for Environment, Water and Natural Resources)

State Rabbit Control Coordinator

Phone: (08) 8303 9620
Email: PIRSA.InvasiveSpecies@sa.gov.au

Page Last Reviewed: 12 Sep 2019
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