New programme planned to eradicate pesky rabbits

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By MATTHEW MCKEW

Rabbits are in the crosshairs again as the pests continue to multiply and cause havoc around Lakes Hayes and Shotover Country.

Otago Regional Council’s to coordinate a landowner-led control operation targeting the rampant population, three years on from the last mass cull.

Biosecurity chief Andrea Howard says there’s observable ‘‘positive impacts’’ from the release of a targeted virus three years ago, RHDV1 K5, but some rabbits proved resistant.

Shotover Country resident Hamish Brown says the population’s growing, particularly along the reserve by the Shotover River.

‘‘They were smashing my new grass in spring so we had to put a rabbit fence up, they are prolific.’’

The pests were originally introduced in the 1800s for hunting, but with no native predator their populations have intensified.

They cause soil erosion, interfere with farming and provide the perfect meal for another pest — stoats.

Howard says a successful poisoning operation by Queenstown’s district council around Lake Hayes last year was let down by an inability to follow it up with night shooting.

The regional council intends to launch the coordinated approach in Lake Hayes and Albert Town later this year.

matthew.mckew@scene.co.nz