extracts from a “PestSmart Rabbit Factsheet” publication of the Invasive Animals CRC
Habitat: In Australia, rabbits are widely distributed. They prefer low vegetation, well-drained, deep sandy soils and refuge such as scrub, blackberries or fallen logs.
Rabbits construct large warrens up to 3 m deep and 45 m long. Where there is abundant surface cover, rabbits may live above the ground.
Nutrition: Rabbits are herbivores that eat a wide variety of plants, including crops, roots, pastures, young trees and vines. Their average daily intake is 100–150 g. In arid areas they need access to water, but elsewhere they get enough moisture from their food.
Reproduction & lifecycle: Females can breed at any time of the year if there is sufficient feed available. They can begin breeding at four months old and may produce five or more litters in a year, with up to five young per litter. Rabbits have a gestation time of 28–30 days.
Biological & behavioural weaknesses:
Rabbits are dependent on warrens or other shelter so destruction of these will greatly reduce the local rabbit population. Rabbits are also highly susceptible to predators and disease. In Australia, their most significant predators include feral cats, foxes and dingoes. Two of the most deadly diseases to rabbits are myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD, formerly known as calicivirus). However, variable virulence of different virus strains and increased genetic resistance by rabbits to the diseases over time has lessened their effectiveness as biological controls1.
Distribution: European rabbits are native to the Iberian Peninsula (Spain & Portugal), France, Gibraltar and north-western Africa (Morocco & Algeria).
Domesticated rabbits were first introduced to Australia in 1788. The first feral populations were observed in Tasmania in 1827. Thomas Austin introduced wild rabbits to his property at Winchelsea near Geelong, Victoria, for hunting in 1859.
Lapidge, K., Braysher, M. and Sarre, S. (2004-present) feral.org.au [Online]. Web-based
The Facts about Pindone:
Pindone poisons rabbits. It does not kill dogs.
Like all farm chemicals, pindone baited carrots should be handled with care. Opened bags should not be accessible to farm animals, pets or children. Empty bags should be burnt.
A NRA (National Registration Authority For Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals, Canberra) 2002 review of Pindone found no problems with carrot bait on non-target species.
The report concludes: “In general, it is considered that there is a low risk of primary poisoning if pindone is applied according to appropriate directions. Many species are likely to avoid open areas where rabbits feed and where pindone baits are laid. Secondary consumption appears to be a low risk with few field reports of impacts on non-target species. Correct baiting practices are thought to reduce risk to acceptable levels as long as these are followed closely and care is taken when applying pindone bait.”
It goes on to say: “Secondary poisoning, where the family dog, wedge-tail eagles and other raptors become affected after eating poisoned rabbit carcasses does not seem to be a problem, which is why the product was recommended for urban areas, golf courses, horticultural areas and hobby farms in the first place.”
“While few farm animals enjoy eating carrots, there still remains a risk where unsealed bags of treated carrots or oats are accessed by animals or humans. However, the effects of pindone are slow acting and reversible. An antidote is available from a vet to deal with accidental poisoning.”
The reference to “correct baiting practices” in this case means that carrot bait should be trailed thinly in a line, preferably in a shallow trench made with discs or a hoe. Rabbits will follow a trail of freshly turned soil and retrieve the bait piece by piece.
Non-target species such as wallabies, kangaroos and possums may become interested in carrots where they are heaped.
The report can be found at: http://www.apvma.gov.au/products/review/docs/pindone.pdf
Going back to poisoning dogs: Michelle Smith, R&D Manager, Animal Control Technologies (the outfit that supplies pindone) has calculated the number of rabbits a dog would need to eat to contract secondary poisoning: “In the unlikely worst case event that a rabbit that has just eaten a full feed of bait is killed and eaten whole by a dog, the dose of bait would be less than a 10th of what is need to kill a mid-sized dog with a single dose. We have calculated that a dog would need to eat about 13 rabbits that had each just eaten the maximum dose of bait to get an acute lethal exposure. While there is always a range of outcomes (some succumb to less and some need much more etc) the risks are still low. The risks increase a bit if the dog eats a few rabbits each time the bait is applied (i.e. gets a series of doses a few days apart) but to date we’ve had no reports of this occurring.
Ed (pers comm): In previous years when we have used pindone carrot baits, most of the rabbits died underground. Those carcasses that the dogs did find were not consumed with enthusiasm, if at all. At this time of the year (summer) the heat, the flies and/or the ants are guaranteed to quickly make a dead rabbit fairly unappetising .
In my opinion it is sound practice to keep pets locked up during bait laying and the next morning until you have assessed what risks might exist.
There is also some good advice on the Department of Primary Industries website at http://www.dpi.vic.gov.au/agriculture/pests-diseases-and-weeds/pest-animals/lc0298-rabbits-and-their-impact/rabbit-control-using-pindone-poison.
BHLG sources its pindone carrot bait from:
Barongarook Weed & Vermin Control Pty Ltd
ABN 92 008 596 406
385 Barongarook Rd, Barongarook 3249
Phone: 0438 484 884 Fax: 03 52 156 249
All queries for further information should be referred to them in the first instance.
PLEASE NOTE: This information applies only to pindone carrot bait. It does not apply to pindone oat bait. ed.
As green pickings in the paddock disappear, rabbits are invading the gardens of the Barrabool Hills. Apart from close-pruning the flowers and digging holes in the lawn, inviting the critters close to the house may encourage them to start digging around and under the foundations.
An offering of fresh carrots will seem like breakfast at Tiffany’s to a rabbit, but the 3 doses of pindone will fairly quickly fix the threat to the garden and substantially reduce the overall rabbit population getting ready to breed in the rainy season. Pindone is a very effective poison when delivered in 3 spaced doses.
To the best of our knowledge Barrabool Hills Landcare Group is the most active community organisation involved in coordinated rabbit baiting in the Geelong area. Let’s all try to keep it that way.
If anyone is surveying rabbit populations before and after baiting and would like send us their data, we’d be happy to publish it on our web site:
Please note that Pindone kills only rabbits. It does not kill dogs.
RABBIT HOTLINE: Kaye – 0438 317 499 or Jim – 0409 935 700
Be a responsible Landcarer: Order your carrots by clicking here Today.
For a comprehensive review of the evolution of the rabbit in Australia, read the attached article (below) written by Kaye Rodden