Three of the new lots carved out of the old Turner block on Gap Road have sold, and I expect the last will go soon. Contractors cleared the blackberry and gorse just before the "For Sale" sign went up, with the offer of "Larger Blocks, Bigger Life". A fine sentiment, but I wonder if the real estate agent's spiel mentioned respraying the blackberry and gorse when it bounces back, or using fencing that lets the kangaroos move up and down the slope, or, where the blocks run into Whittakers Lane replanting and weeding the "wetland/retarding basin"—all part of that bigger life.
Early March sees a big event in rabbit control—1000 doses of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus K5 were released at roughly the same time across Australia. It's a new variant of the calicivirus, a virus which doesn't affect any animals other than rabbits (as far as we know) and brings on a quick death. Blood clots form in major organs such as the heart, lungs and kidneys, and block blood vessels causing heart and respiratory failure. Calicivirus first appeared in China in 1983, where it quickly killed 14 million domesticated rabbits. It spread westwards into Europe, and researchers in Australia were testing its potential as a control agent for our rabbits when the virus escaped quarantine in 1995. It killed 10 million rabbits in 8 weeks, and many more since. But increasing resistance to this strain led to a search for an alternative strain, and so we come to K5.
In Riddells Creek, we'll be seeing the effects of the release from now on—look out for dead rabbits lying in the open. If you have pet rabbits, innoculate them now against the K5 virus. If you are civic-minded, report deaths online using the "Rabbit Biocontrol Tracker", and download the RabbitScan App and join in the count of rabbit numbers.
K5 is the next move in our troubled relationship with rabbits. Riddells Landcare is interested because rabbits set up warrens in creek banks and bushland fringing settled areas like Riddells. They cut down young native species—the Australian Government Department of the Environment says rabbits increase the threat to 304 nationally threatened plant and animal species. They'll eat anything soft and edible, like my lettuces, and at the height of summer 2015, the soft bark of my fruit trees and the exotics at Webbers Garden Centre. They dig warrens under houses and undermine the foundations. And they never stop breeding!
A virus or poisoning is never 100% effective; it's necessary to deny rabbits the habitat they prefer, beginning with their warrens, by fumigating (good) or ripping (better). In a closely settled landscape like Riddells, this requires cooperation between neighbours, because one warren or a rubbish heap left untouched will shelter rabbits that recolonise cleared areas. Here in Riddells Creek, Anne-Marie Drummond is encouraging her neighbours along Cornish Street , just west of that Turner block, to pay attention to the rabbits on their properties and start taking action. Drop her a note (email@example.com) - she would love to hear from interested people. Or call Beau Kent at MRSC (5421 9507) for more on rabbit control.
For some people, rabbits seem cute and harmless, and the thought of killing rabbits makes them uneasy. But when you understand the impact of rabbits, it's all part of living that Bigger Life.
Ross Colliver, Riddells Creek Landcare, firstname.lastname@example.org