A new virus strain could help to eradicate rabbits on the Southern Downs.
A new virus strain could help to eradicate rabbits on the Southern Downs. Rebecca Zanker

Southern Downs council tackles rabbits

RABBITS have been wreaking havoc on the Southern Downs.

But natural resource management groups and the Southern Downs Regional Council are staging a blitz with the help of a new strain of haemorrhagic disease.

The council's pest management officer Craig Magnussen said the K5 strain of the RHDV virus could make a significant difference in rabbit populations, with the help of land managers.

Mr Magnussen said the border town of Wallangarra was a key focus at the moment, as its population was the most densely established in all of Queensland.

HOP INTO IT: Southern Downs have been urged to rip up rabbit warrens.
HOP INTO IT: Southern Downs have been urged to rip up rabbit warrens. contributed

He said K5 would be released in Wallangarra in March, and hoped this would give the region a fighting chance against the pests.

But he said the public's assistance would be crucial.

"Some people might be sitting back and waiting for the virus to be released, thinking that might be a silver bullet,” he said.

He said ripping up rabbit warrens was essential too.

"They don't survive if they don't have warrens,” he said.

"We need landholders to rip warrens and remove above ground rabbit harbours like blackberry. It's about getting people on board and having control measures.

"Warren ripping is the primary on-ground tool as it provides immediate substantial and long-lasting reduction in rabbit densities, and pushing the pests to the surface will give RHDV-2 and the K5 strain the best possible chance to knockdown the population this year.

"The warren ripping is vital because there is a low survival rate of kittens outside warrens.”

He said landholders who ripped up warrens could get a 30% rebate.

Mr Magnussen said the council planned to liaise with Tenterfield Shire Council to create a cross-border rabbit buffer.

The Queensland Murray-Darling Committee and Darling Downs Moreton Rabbit Board will work together with local councils in a bid to control the pests.

QMDC regional co-ordinator Vanessa Macdonald said rabbit populations had been on the incline, despite years of rabbit management and the earlier success of myxomatosis and RHD.

But she was hopeful the new virus strain would bring a good opportunity.

"QMDC and Southern Downs Regional Council are targeting rabbit control programs of warren ripping and harbour removal in the Granite Belt, initially at Wallangarra,” Ms Macdonald said.

Rabbits pose a threat to horticultural crops and native species including endemic wildflowers, as well as competing with crops for food, on the Granite Belt and cost an estimated $200 in lost production nationally.

To learn more about warren ripping, or about if you are in an identified hotspot area, contact QMDC on 46376200, the council on 1300MYSDRC (1300697372), or the DDMRB on (07)46614076.

Stanthorpe Border Post


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