Rabbit Control Options

By Sahra McFetridge, Senior Biosecurity/Veterinary Officer, Department of Primary Industries and Regions

Rabbits continue to be one of Australia’s most widely distributed and abundant pest animal species, with estimated costs at well over $200 million per year. Twelve to sixteen rabbits are equivalent to one DSE (dry sheep equivalent).Rabbit control can be achieved but requires a coordinated and ongoing approach, with consideration for the large areas that need to be treated, costs and coordination with adjoining properties.  Unfortunately, there is no single control method that will remove all rabbits from your property. 

Current research at PIRSA is focused on bio-controls (e.g. Calicivirus also known as Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) of which there are currently 5 strains present in Australia including K5, the Korean Strain) whereby a virus is released into the environment and spread through natural or artificial means. 

Important features of a rabbit control program include:

  • Know what you have on your property – draw a map of known warren locations on your property to help with control implementation (e.g. bait trail locations).  Spotlight counts are useful to assess numbers and control impacts. Two breeding rabbits can produce up to 30-40 young per year, establishing a stable population so ongoing control is needed year-round.
  • Collaborate with your neighbours and community organisations on rabbit control, as single property control is rarely effective. Contact your local Landscape Board to find out about upcoming control activities in your area (e.g. bait distribution days).
  • Log sightings of rabbits. RabbitScan is a freely available website and includes an App where anyone can log sightings, damage and implemented controls of rabbits to contribute to an Australian distribution map. This data aids with biocontrol development and control planning including by Landscape SA Board staff. 
  • Consider what is happening in your rabbit population (e.g. breeding). Currently landholders should be mapping warrens, spotlight counting rabbits, discussing their collaborative plans with neighbours and removing harbours (e.g. blackberry bushes/box thorns etc. that harbour rabbits) to ensure they are ready to act in spring. Certain control methods work better at certain times of the year and misuse can produce poor results. For example, it is not recommended to release the K5 virus onto your property during the main breeding season (winter to spring) when rabbits younger than 4 months of age are present as this can assist them developing immunity to the virus. Instead wait until mid-Spring and follow up with baiting 6-8 weeks later to control those rabbits not impacted by the virus release. Warren ripping and fumigation are best used after this from late summer through autumn and winter to prevent new rabbits from establishing. Other techniques such as shooting, trapping and harbour removal (e.g. blackberry bushes) can be employed anytime of the year but are not generally very effective in controlling rabbits on their own. 

K5 virus can be purchased directly from the Elizabeth MacArthur Agricultural Institute by South Australian landholders.Landholders can contact EMAI directly: or (02) 4640 6337 to purchase RHDV1 K5 or contact your local Landscape Board Landscape officers for further advice.

  • Collect dead rabbits and submit them for free testing to the Rabbit sampling program . Leg bone or liver samples can be analysed for National disease surveillance to map disease prevalence and improve research and control implementation at a regional level. Further information is available at
  • Adopt a multi-species approach – address foxes and feral cat numbers on your property when undertaking rabbit control to improve overall property pest control. 
  • More information on wild rabbits is available on the PIRSA website and the GloveBox Guide for Managing Rabbits”. Can be found on the Pest Smart website. 
  • Other control options such as exclusion fencing.

Biosecurity SA is now employing a Pest Animal Coordinator (Deer, Foxes and Rabbits), Jen Gillis, at a state-wide level, with support from Commonwealth funding as part of the Established Pest Animals and Weeds Management Pipeline Program. Through the establishment of landholder groups and working with pre-established groups, the Coordinator will deliver practical-focused masterclasses demonstrating pest control methods (e.g. traps and bait layer use) over the coming months.  This project aims to improve local coordinated control of priority pests through education and collaboration, with industry, landscape boards and National Parks and Wildlife Service South Australia (NPWSSA) staff, in turn providing examples for future extension activities.  

For more information, please contact PIRSA Invasive Species Unit on (08) 8429 0823.