Surprise drop in rabbit count good news for public gardens

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Fewer rabbits appear to be roaming the Oamaru Public Gardens this summer than last year, when the Waitaki District Council was forced to take action to reduce their numbers.

Last summer it was not uncommon to see dozens of rabbits feeding in the early hours of the evening, especially on young plants.

However, while there was still a high number of rabbits at the gardens, repellants have not had to be used to deter them from nibbling away on foliage, according to Waitaki District Council recreation manager Erik van der Spek.

“There is certainly a few in the gardens and there always will be, basically.”

Mr Van der Spek said he was talking to Downer (the gardens’ maintenance contractor) about the situation, but as far as they could see there were “no issues” at the time.

In the past, the council would control the gardens’ rabbit population by contracting people to shoot them. However, that has not happened for a few years due to the amount of organisation and costs involved. Before a shoot, the council would have to place advertisements about it, inform police and ensure no-one entered the gardens for the duration of the shoot.

The last time a shoot took place, it rained and few rabbits ventured out of their burrows.

Poison cannot be used either, as it is a risk to other wildlife.

A special rabbit repellent was sprayed on young plants last summer, but proved ineffective.

“We’ve tried various repellants at times, but the rain washes them off so it’s not really that effective,” Mr van der Spek said.

The rabbit population will continue to be monitored by the council.