Rabbits have a significant impact on the environment by grazing native plants, particularly on threatened plants and communities, and competing with native animals for food and habitat.
Feral cats and foxes use rabbits as a reliable source of food. However, when adverse conditions such as drought significantly reduce rabbit populations, feral cats and foxes shift their predation to native species.
Controlling the rabbit population
Rabbit numbers in Western Australia were significantly reduced by the introduction of the myxoma virus into the State in 1951, spread by the mosquito and rabbit flea. Sporadic outbreaks of myxomatosis still affect rabbit populations, but a general resistance to the virus has developed making the disease less effective.&;
Rabbit-proof fencing of areas of rare plants can be effective where feasible.
The Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus or calicivirus was released in Western Australian in 1996, but has only been marginally successful in some areas as a related virus in the wild rabbit population provides a level of natural immunity. Nevertheless, along with myxomatosis and other control techniques, the virus has been effective in helping to keep rabbit numbers low throughout much of the agricultural regions of Western Australia.
The Department of Parks and Wildlife will continue to manage rabbit infestations that threaten areas of ecological significance using the most appropriate and effective management option for the situation.
The department also works with neighbours under the Good Neighbour Policy1.34 MB, recognising that a coordinated approach with landowners is essential.