This is Australia's most destructive introduced pest. All varieties, including domestic breeds, are classified as pest animals under the Queensland Biosecurity Act 2014. It is an offence to keep one as a pet.

Rabbit or hare?

Rabbits are often confused with hares. The hare is not a declared pest animal.

Both are roughly cat-sized, but with very short tails. They are a brindled brown colour above and white below, and have long, powerful hindlegs, giving them a fast turn of speed. They have large ears that catch every sound and move independently, which enables them to listen in two directions at once. Their ears also provide a large surface area that catches more soundwaves.

But rabbits:

  • are smaller than hares, with a body length of 40 centimetres as opposed to 55 centimetres for hares
  • weigh half that of a hare – approximately 1.5 kilograms, compared to 3 kilograms
  • are greyer in colour, while hares are more golden-brown
  • have smaller hind legs and don't run as fast as hares
  • have smaller ears and don't have the distinct black tips that hares have on their ears
  • hold their tails up, showing the white underneath, as a general alarm signal – often seen when rabbits are scuttling for shelter – while hares hold their tails low, showing the black upper surface
  • live in groups, whereas hares tend to lead solitary lives except when breeding.

Rabbit management

There are 7 steps to successful rabbit management in urban environments.

1. Inspection of property

Good indications of rabbit colony habitats are:

  • fresh rabbit droppings
  • recently excavated patches of soil
  • well-worn trails that go into harbourage areas or under fencing.

2. Destruction of habitat

This is the most effective method of controlling rabbits. If you don't get rid of their harbourage areas and warrens, they will quickly recolonise.

The only effective way to completely eradicate them from under disused sheds and buildings is to remove the flooring to gain access to the burrows. Remove any nearby piles of rubbish, as these provide rabbits with alternative safe habitat.

3. Fumigation of existing warrens

Fumigants are easy to use and very cost-effective. You can buy them from most agricultural suppliers. Ensure you read the product label carefully and follow the instructions provided. A current material safety data sheet (MSDS) should be kept at the fumigation site. This will be available from the supplier.

4. Live capture trapping

All trapping techniques must conform to accepted animal welfare practices and the traps used must be approved by the RSPCA.

Soft-catch, rubber-jawed foothold traps should be placed at the entrance to a burrow. These are designed to firmly hold captured rabbits while practically eliminating trap-induced and self-induced injury.

The drop-door cage trap is best suited for covered areas (inside barns and under floorboards of sheds). Before setting the traps, establish a feeding pattern by placing a mixture of diced raw carrots, sweet potato or turnips on the ground near the rabbit burrow for 10 days. Only then should the food be placed in the traps and the traps set.

5. Exclusion fencing

Fencing is an effective method of preventing rabbits from entering the property or excluding them from a particular part of the property. It should be:

  • 50-millimetre wire mesh
  • one-metre high, minimum
  • buried into the earth to a depth of at least 300 millimetres, to prevent rabbits burrowing under.

6. A monthly inspection of your property

A monthly inspection of the property for evidence of rabbit activity is recommended. You can do either a:

  • daytime inspection for fresh rabbit droppings, diggings and holes in or under fencing
  • night-time inspection for feeding rabbits.

7. Report rabbits

If you see a rabbit in your area tell your neighbours. A cooperative community approach is necessary to achieve all pest management goals.

To report a rabbit sighting, complete the Darling Downs–Moreton Rabbit Board's Have you seen a rabbit online form or email enquiries@ddmrb.org.au.