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Sunspots Safaris New Zealand Hunting Blog » Featured » Bunny Killers–We’re the Good Guys

Bunny Killers–We’re the Good Guys

While hunting red stag at Glen Dene Station on the South Island of New Zealand earlier this month, landowner Richard Burdon and I got to talking about the rabbit population problem. Standing on top of this hill, we saw acres and acres like what’s in this picture: grass nibbled down to nothing, and perhaps 10-20% of the ground surface obscured by rabbit droppings.

Rabbit droppings near Lake Hawea

Rabbit droppings near Lake Hawea

Rabbits, like red deer, Himalayan tahr, fallow deer, and many other animals, are non-native, and were imported into New Zealand over 150 years ago. Probably not a very good idea for a country that has really no predators. Rabbit populations have been thriving, and have become a plague, especially on the South Island. In the 1990′s, a virus called RHD was introduced illegally and was very successful in controlling the population, but now rabbit populations are becoming immune to the virus.

On a positive note, the RHD virus is now being analyzed as a possible treatment for some forms of cancer–the Southern District Health Board Oncology Research Unit and the University of Otago Medical School has a $1.3 million grant to develop the treatment.

The government is very concerned about rabbit population control, and in fact farmers who don’t adequately control rabbit populations on their property will face a fine of up to $100,000 or 5 years in jail. Control methods, whether it be night shooting, poison, or other methods, are required to be in place by the end of 2011, and populations must be down to approved levels by October 2012.

1080 poison warning

1080 poison warning

One of the other common methods for controlling the population is the poison known as 1080, which unfortunately is dangerous to children, and deadly to dogs. This doesn’t stop the New Zealand Department of Conservation from dropping it from aircraft to control both rabbits and possum. Photo credit: Greg O’Beine.

Introduction of predators such as ferrets and stoats was attempted many years ago, with little success, and so today, shooting the rabbits seems to be one of the most humane approaches to this problem. Farmers often hire people to cull the rabbits on their properties. Organized hunts such as the Easter Bunny Hunt help the situation, but of course draw cries of outrage from the uninformed. Admittedly, their choice of name for that event wasn’t likely to help!

Michael

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Michael is a website and SEO consultant, founder of Visual Itineraries, father of a very smart little boy, a motorcycle rider, a photographer, and an avid traveler.

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