Killer rabbit virus to be released along Taylor River Reserve

Poisoned carrots will be laid along parts of the Taylor River Reserve in a bid to rein in the area’s out of control rabbit population.

Rabbit K5 calicivirus to be released on Taylor River Reserve in early May with council staff using baited carrots to lure targeted prey.

The move comes as Marlborough District Council staff look at alternative culling methods to shooting.

Rabbits are causing extensive damage to the stop banks along parts of the Taylor River but conventional control tactics such as shooting have been deemed too dangerous.

Parks and Open Spaces Officer Robin Dunn says the K5 strain has been successfully used in New Zealand since 2018.

"It is s an important tool in reducing the environmental and agricultural impacts of the wild rabbits which are threatening Blenheim’s flood protection defences.

"While it’s not the total answer for rabbit control, we anticipate that the new strain will greatly assist the control of these populations by supplementing traditional pest control methods.

“The optimal time for effective release of the virus against wild rabbits is in May and our controlled release will use a high-quality commercially prepared product at selected sites,” he says.

The virus will be released in the floodway reserve between Purkiss Street and south to opposite Turnbull Drive as well as neighbouring vineyard properties.

Robin says the virus poses no threat to other animals who eat the bait-laced carrots or any poisoned carcasses.

He is encouraging owners of pet rabbits to talk to their vet about possible vaccination against the virus.

“It is one of the only safe tools to use in these high public use areas. A vaccine to protect pet and farmed rabbits from RHDV1 is available from local veterinarians," he says.

Carrots will be used to convey the virus and pre-feeding of at least two feeds of carrots will take place up to two weeks before the RHDV1 K5 release.

Pre-feeding trains the rabbits to eat bait and allows the amount of treated baits required for each site to be estimated, to ensure high bait uptake.

The impact of the RHDV1 K5 release will then be monitored.

Members of the public can contact:

• Robin Dunn, Parks and Open Spaces Officer at Robin.Dunn@marlborough.govt.nz

• Liam Falconer, Biosecurity Officer at Liam.Falconer@marlborough.govt.nz or

• Phone the Council on 03 520 7400.