Media release

Signs of success following Clyde rabbit control operation

Tuesday 6 October 2020

The collaborative operation was the first of a new approach by ORC to organising landowner-led rabbit control in Otago.

Early signs indicate a rabbit control operation carried out during August has had a significant impact on rabbit numbers around Dunstan Golf Course, Dunstan Hospital and surrounding reserves and properties in Clyde.

The Otago Regional Council (ORC) facilitated the collaborative operation, which was jointly funded by private landowners and the Central Otago District Council, Southern District Health Board, Department of Conservation. The operation used pindone poison applied to carrot bait.

Recent site inspections showed greatly reduced signs of activity, and no live rabbits identified in what would normally be a busy time for rabbit numbers.

Dunstan Councillor Gary Kelliher said feedback on the operation had been positive.

“I’ve had a number of calls from people in the area saying they’ve never seen so many dead rabbits, so this operation has clearly had a big impact on the local rabbit population.

“It’s still early days, but the Clyde example shows that a cooperative approach is needed to make a real dent in rabbit numbers. Rabbits don’t recognise property boundaries, so it requires neighbours working together, like they have here, to get them under control.”

Cr Kelliher thanked the community for participating to get a good result.

“It’s the landowners who have put up their hands and been willing to work together with ORC, and who funded the operation, so we’re very grateful for their participation.”

ORC Manager Biosecurity and Rural Liaison Andrea Howard said staff were already working on replicating this model in other hotspots around Otago.

“The Clyde operation serves as a bit of a case study for us in how ORC can better facilitate collaborative rabbit management,” Ms Howard said, “We’re looking at a few more areas where we would like to see a similar approach reproduced next winter, and we’re taking on additional staff to ensure this happens.

“Landowner-led action is an integral part of our operational plan for biosecurity. Under our pest plan, controlling rabbits is the responsibility of landowners, but ORC will take more leadership in organising collaborative efforts like this one.”

Ms Howard stressed that secondary controls would be needed to make the most of the poison operation.

“Rabbits have a famous ability to bounce back, and the benefits of this poison operation will only be realised over time if rabbits continue to be controlled. That means landowners following up this work with secondary controls like trapping, supplementary poisoning, and rabbit-proof fencing.”