Hornsby rabbit owners are being urged to vaccinate domestic rabbits prior to the roll out of a feral rabbit baiting program on 18 March 2020.

Led by Greater Sydney Local Land Services with the support of major landholders, local councils and environmental agencies, the program will see the release of the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus known as RHDV1-K5.

The virus will be released throughout the Greater Sydney region including Galston and Dural in the Hornsby Shire.

Greater Sydney Biosecurity Officer Jacob French said the program adopted an integrated approach to the reduction and management of feral rabbits in known problem areas throughout the region.

“This is the fourth release after the initial national program roll out in March 2017 which has led to a 47 per cent reduction in feral rabbit numbers across NSW. This follow up program ensures we can target new areas and support more landholders and local governments to reduce the impact of these pests,” he said.

Mr French said it was important domestic rabbit owners went to their local vets to vaccinate their pets prior to the release.

“The virus is spread mainly by contact between rabbits or via insects such as mosquitos and flies. Importantly, RHDV is only effective in rabbits and if pets are vaccinated they become immune.”

“This program is designed to complement ongoing control efforts on private and public land,” he said. “We encourage landholders experiencing issues with feral rabbits to continue working with us to roll out coordinated control campaigns in partnership with their neighbours wherever possible,” he said.

Feral rabbits are a declared pest in NSW due to the significant amount of agricultural and environmental damage they cause.

They are believed to have contributed to the decline or extinction of a number of NSW native species including the greater bilby and the yellow footed rock-wallaby and their overgrazing is estimated to cost Australian agriculture more than $200 million every year.