This morning I went for a walk. A habit I've got to get back into and when the weather's hot, the only time to do it is early in the morning. This morning I saw a plethora of wildlife, Myna's - Indian and Noisy, Lorikeets, a White Winged Chuff on it's mud nest while the rest of the family fought with a bunch of magpies. A fox which scampered across the road pursued by birds of all description. There were ducks preening themselves on my swimming pool, cockatoos and corellas making a racket as only large parrots can and rabbits . . . loads of rabbits. Now whilst I love the little fluffy buggers, they're feral here. Introduced by European settlers to satiate their hunting desires they are in plague proportions, overly urbanised and a bloody nuisance. And here's why:
Rabbits breed from 3-4 months of age,
Rabbits are pregnant for 30 days and give birth to litters of 4-7 young,
A mature female rabbit can be continuously pregnant for between 6-8 months per year under favourable conditions,
A single pair of rabbits can produce 30-40 young per year
And they're all living at my place!
Besides eating everything that's green and leafy, (except Gardenias, I 've found and thankfully they can't reach the hanging baskets filled with Fijian Impatiens) they dig holes in the lawn and have completely undermined our shed and back paddock with metre deep potholes and warrens. They're even worse in the country. So, as I watched the little cottontails scattering in all directions and of course being a gunless pacifist (not that I could hit one if I tried) I mulled over how to get rid of the buggers. The local council will provide pindone bait to people on acreage but its very attractive to dogs. No good, I have three dogs. Plus it works similarly to rat poisoning by preventing blood coagulation and believe me, it's not a good way to die!
Then there's the prospect of just filling in the holes. Clean fill is easy enough to get from excavation sites and there's plenty of that going on around here but then I need a Bobcat to fill the extensive warren in the back paddock then smooth over the top with no guarantee the little feral perils won't dig their way out. In fact, when we build up our bonfire over the year, the rabbits find it a fabulous haven. We have to drop bungers down the warrens to avoid the 1995 fiasco where a sparkling rabbit, resembling something made out of optic fibres, sprang from the inferno and frightened all the little children with it's screams. An unfortunate occasion where a brick came in handy to put the poor thing out of it's misery.
An early recorded attempt at biological control in Australia was the release in the 1890s of three hundred cats. They were released in an attempt to stop rabbits spreading further into Western Australia. Many of the cats starved, many bred and became part of another feral problem and the rabbits were hardly affected.
Then we introduced the myxoma virus but noticed that it's virulence has changed. I remember having a rabbit blinded by the slow-killing myxomitosis desease, bump straight through the back door and my brother banging it on the head with a shovel as the most readily available form of euthanasia. (We seem to have a history of rabbit thumping!) It was common when we first moved here to see diseased rabbits with their blinded putrid eyes bumbling around the place but not any more. They're healthy enough to clean out Mr McGregor's garden a hundred times over!
Rabbit calicivirus was tested and accidentally released from quarantine in the 90's, proving a fast and effective way of nobbling wabbits but it too seems to have been diluted on the Eastern coast, given the increasing numbers of fluffers in my back yard! It seems that rabbits are among the most resilient of creatures and their immune systems are incredible. Within a couple of generations, these viral controls simply don't work.
I could employ a couple of ferrets . . I once watched a couple of old fellas ferreting rabbits way back when I was a youngling. It was fascinating. They sent the weasels down the hole and dutifully they returned with rabbits. The necks of the fuzzballs were broken and the carcasses gutted and skinned and the little ferrets received the giblets as a reward before being whacked in an old hessian sack. The rabbits were then strung to a shoulder pole and off the old geezers went with dinner and pelts. I don't much care for ferrets, they smell and they bite and . . . well they don't look very nice.
It's weird, if rabbits were spiders, I'd have no problem getting the Flick man in or squishing them with a thong. If they were bull ants, I'd just pour petrol down their nest but they're not. They're cute, fluffy, sweet faced likkle bunny wunny wabbits . . . I can't even run over one when it stands bolt upright in front of a car, blinded by the headlights.
So I guess I'll just have to get used to holes, plant native shrubs and trees and hope that encroaching civilisation will simply reduce their habitat or employ Wallace and Gromit and their handy wabbit gwabber.
Meanwhile, I have 3 acres of lush green paddock after recent rain and can't bring the boys back for fear one of them will stumble in a bloody rabbit hole! The last thing I want is to lose a horse down a rabbit hole like Alice in Wonderland. Then again, it would reduce my feed and vet bills . . .mmm . . .more thought required on that one!