© Queensland Government
© Queensland Government
© Queensland Government
© Queensland Government
Native to Europe, rabbits were brought to Australia by the First Fleet as food animals, with the first feral rabbit populations recorded by the late 1820s. Later releases of rabbits for sport hunting dramatically increased the size of the feral rabbit population.
Today, rabbits are one of Australia's major agricultural and environmental pests, costing approximately $200 million annually.
Rabbits eat pasture and crops, compete with native animals, cause soil erosion, and prevent regeneration of native vegetation.
Introducing, keeping and supplying rabbits in Queensland is illegal and penalties apply. Limited types of permits for domestic rabbits are available from Biosecurity Queensland for research purposes, public display, magic acts, and circuses. Before a permit is granted, guidelines must be met.
You can support a national rabbit mapping project by reporting rabbit populations.
You must manage the impacts of rabbits on your land.
You must not move, keep, feed, give away, sell or release rabbits into the environment.
- Small, furry mammal with long ears, weight about 1.3–2.3kg.
- Fur is usually grey-brown with pale belly; black or ginger also common.
- Hind legs are long, front legs are short.
- Ears are long.
- Eyes are large.
How to distinguish a rabbit from a hare
- are considerably larger than rabbits with a head and body length of 55cm (40cm for rabbits)
- are more golden-brown in colour (rabbits are greyer)
- have relatively longer ears with distinct black tips
- have relatively larger hind legs and can run faster
- don't lift their tails when disturbed, so the black upper-surface is always visible (rabbits cock tails and show white under-surface as a general alarm signal – often seen when rabbits are scuttling for shelter)
- tend to lead solitary lives except when breeding (rabbits live in groups).
- Creates warrens where soil is easy to dig.
- Occupies tussock grasses and areas littered with fallen timber.
- Also lives in and under buildings, in old machinery and storage containers, and in old waste facilities.
- Rabbits are spread throughout Queensland, with high populations in the Granite Belt and south-west; moderate populations in the Maranoa, southern Warrego and north Burnett, and on the Atherton Tablelands and south-west and north-west Darling Downs; and isolated populations in remainder of state.
- Rabbit distribution correlates with soil types, especially types suitable for burrowing.
- Above the Tropic of Capricorn, rabbits are at the edge of their range and populations generally expand and contract according to season.
- Rabbit numbers dramatically decline following outbreaks of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV), but can increase in areas where effective follow-up measures (e.g. warren destruction) are not adequately practised.
- Female rabbits can have up to 5–6 litters in a good breeding season, producing an average of 3–4 kittens per litter.
- Litters of up to 8 kittens are possible for older females, depending on food quantity and quality.
- Gestation period is 28–30 days.
- Breeding can commence from 4 months of age.
- Pasture, horticulture, forestry seedlings.
- Degrades native vegetation by eating seedlings, preventing vegetation from regenerating and promoting invasive plant growth.
- Degrades soil through overgrazing.
- Degrades water through overgrazing (secondary to soil erosion).
- Competes with native animals for food and space.
- Provides food for predator species, changing their population dynamics.
- Affects birds, mammals and insects that rely on plants.
- Control measures such as warren ripping and harbour destruction can also have adverse environmental effects, although the overall long-term benefits outweigh these effects.
- Contributes to total grazing pressure on pastures.
- Reduces pasture production, including reserves for dry seasons, which also reduces livestock and wool production.
- Reduces quality of pasture.
- Reduces crop production and product quality.
- Feral populations are expensive to control.
- Damages infrastructure, gardens and buildings.
- Reduces amenity and landscape values.
- Reduces incomes to rural households.
- Cats, dogs, foxes, large birds, snakes, humans.
- An integrated control approach, combining different control methods (e.g. destroying rabbit warrens, baiting, rabbit-proof fencing, fumigation, trapping and shooting) with land management practices is most effective.
- Destroying rabbit's home (e.g. warren) is most effective method for long-term control.
- Ripping is successful because warrens can rarely be reopened and rabbits are unable to recolonise these areas.
- Chase as many rabbits as possible inside warrens. Dogs can be used to drive rabbits into warrens before ripping starts.
- Use a tractor with tyned (sharp-pronged) implement, one tyne or many (at 75cm long), that rips through the warren and collapses it. An excavator and bucket can also be used to dig through the warren following and collapsing tunnels. Larger tractors and dozers are more appropriate for properties with many warrens as they can move faster and rip wider.
- Rip beyond the boundary of the last burrow to ensure all tunnels are collapsed. This will help prevent reopenings.
- Rip all warrens within 1km of permanent water, and within 3km of established breeding sites.
- Where there is abundant surface harbour, a high proportion of rabbits may live above ground rather than in underground warrens. Rabbits can make homes in windrows, dense shrubs (e.g. blackberries, lantana), rubbish piles, and old machinery.
- To eliminate above-ground breeding areas, you may need to:
- burn windrows and log piles
- remove weeds through chemical and physical control
- remove objects from paddocks and clean up rubbish piles.
- Removing harbour may expose warrens underneath, which will also need to be ripped.
- Baiting alone is not effective and will not eradicate a rabbit population.
- Rabbits can also become 'bait shy' so that this method becomes less effective over time. Ideally, baiting is best used in conjunction with ripping/fumigation to reduce a population before ripping/fumigation, or remove remnant rabbits after ripping/fumigation.
- Baiting works best when rabbits are not breeding.
- 1080 is a restricted chemical product also known as S7 poison. The possession, supply and use of S7 poisons is regulated under the Medicines and Poisons Act 2019 and associated regulations and other Queensland Health regulations. Read Queensland Health medicines and poisons for more information.
- Poison baits must always be used in accordance with the product label directions or the conditions of an Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) minor use permit and the requirements of Queensland Health departmental standards.
- Pre-feeding is required when using 1080 because rabbits will not readily take new feed. Poison-free bait should be laid at least 3 times over 1 week before poisoned bait is laid. (1080-impregnated carrot baits are the most common form of bait used.)
- Pindone is an anticoagulant registered for rabbit control. This poison works by preventing blood from clotting. In Queensland, it is not recommended for broadacre use and is mainly used in urban areas and near farm buildings.
- Pindone works best when given as a series of small doses/feeds over 3 days. Although pre-feeding is not essential, it does enhance bait uptake by shy rabbits, which get used to feed prior to poison bait being laid. To be effective, pindone requires multiple feeds so that poison can build up to fatal levels in the rabbit's body. Feeding over a number of nights provides plenty of opportunity for most of the rabbit population to consume the required lethal dose. Rabbits poisoned with pindone usually die in 10–20 days.
- Pindone baiting does not work well when lots of green pick exists for rabbits.
- Fumigation is labour-intensive, time-consuming, and generally ineffective if used alone. However, it may be a good alternative in areas where ripping is not practical (e.g. steep and rocky terrain) or to manage reopened burrows following ripping.
- For best results, fumigation should be carried out in 2 stages – initially, before breeding season starts (to reduce breeding stock) and again during the breeding season.
- Myxomatosis and RHDV need to be incorporated into a management strategy with other control techniques.
Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (also known as rabbit calicivirus disease)
- RHDV is a virus specific to rabbits, which works by infecting the lining of the throat, lungs, gut and liver.
- RHDV relies primarily on direct rabbit-to-rabbit contact to spread. Therefore, high rabbit numbers are needed before this control method will be effective.
- Myxomatosis is no longer produced as a laboratory strain. But field strains are still known to recur and affect rabbit populations.
- Trapping is extremely labour-intensive, and requires a skilled operator to set the traps to successfully capture rabbits.
- Has a lever that closes the cage when a rabbit steps on it. Rabbits are lured into the cage with bait—usually diced carrot. Traps need to be disabled and left open for 2–3 nights with bait leading into cage. This entices rabbits to enter. Traps can be set once rabbits have consumed the trail of bait all the way into trap. Traps should be checked and emptied regularly—usually 2 times per night.
- Designed specifically for rabbits. Cylindrical, made of light mesh, about 1m long and 15cm diameter. This trap has 1 open end with 2 hinged trapdoors inside. Open end is placed in burrow, hinged gates close and trap the rabbit after it enters from burrow. All burrow entrances need a trap placed in them, or be closed so that the only way out is through a trap.
- Traps can be left in the burrow entrance for a number of days. However, must be checked at least daily so that any caught rabbit does not suffer and animal welfare responsibilities are met.
- Built to keep rabbits out of a particular area. Appropriate for small, high-value areas that require protection. Fully fenced areas will only remain rabbit-free if all rabbits are removed from the enclosed area after fencing and the fence is regularly maintained and checked for holes.
- Rabbit-proof fence should be made of wire mesh netting (40mm or smaller) and at least 900mm high. Netting should also be buried to depth of at least 150mm. Gates into fenced area also need to be rabbit-proof.
- Electric fencing is a cheaper alternative but is not a complete physical barrier on it's own. It is also prone to damage from other pest animals and stock.
- Shooting is most useful when used for removal after other control methods (such as ripping). For best results, shoot when rabbits are active. This is usually early morning, late afternoon, or night. The best and most economical firearm is a .22 calibre rifle.
- If your property is within an urban area, you will need to comply with local government regulations and the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000, which restrict the use of firearms.
See the rabbit fact sheet (PDF, 2.1MB) for more information on control.
- The rabbit is a restricted category 3, 4, 5 and 6 invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
- You must not move, keep, feed, give away, sell, or release rabbits into the environment. Penalties may apply.
- You must take all reasonable and practical measures to minimise the biosecurity risks associated with dealing with rabbits under your control. This is called a general biosecurity obligation (GBO).
- At a local level, each local government agency must have a biosecurity plan that covers invasive animals in its area. This plan may include actions to be taken on rabbits. Some of these actions may be required under local laws. Contact your local government for more information.
- Rabbit fact sheet (PDF, 2.1MB)
- Rabbit control in Queensland – a guideline for land managers (PDF, 2.6MB)
- Pest animal control methods
- Pets you can't keep in Queensland (PDF, 18MB)
- Prohibited pets fact sheet (PDF, 2.4MB)
- Darling Downs–Moreton Rabbit Board
- Rabbits: pests...not pets YouTube video
- Rabbits impacts and control YouTube video
- Rabbits and hares: spot the difference YouTube video
- Rabbits: a threat to conservation and natural resource management (PDF, 2.7MB)
- PESTSMART: European rabbits – Bait delivery of RHDV1 K5 strain
- European wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)
- Last reviewed: 4 Nov 2022
- Last updated: 3 Feb 2023