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Rabbit Virus Released in Hawke’s Bay

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Biosecurity team has released the new strain of rabbit calicivirus.  The RHD K5 strain was approved for release by Ministry of Primary Industries in late March, and the Hawke’s Bay release was during the week of April 23.

“Fortunately the weather was perfect for hand-laying the carrot bait across 32 sites across Hawke’s Bay,” says Campbell Leckie, Biosecurity Manager.

The release was at 32 sites which were carefully chosen to enable a 20 km range between each site to help the virus to spread. The sites are a mix of well-known rabbit infested sites, plus properties where owners were willing to assist with the release.

The virus is spread mainly by flies and one-on-one contact by rabbits.

“It’s not known how long the virus will take effect, but colder winter weather should assist,” says Campbell Leckie, Biosecurity Manager.

The weather plays a big role in the effectiveness of the virus, especially when there is severe temperature shifts from hot to cold, along with rain. These factors can heavily impact the rabbit population.

“The earlier RHD strain is still active in the environment, and it is hoped that the K5 strain will remove a larger part of the rabbit population.”

The HBRC Biosecurity team has some follow up advice for landowners -

  • Leave carcasses where they are to allow flies to further spread the virus.
  • Do your rabbit shooting over winter, rather than leaving it until spring.  Winter is the most effective time. Springtime is the most active breeding period, and shooting encourages rabbits to keep numbers up. Any rabbits alive over winter may be resistant to the strain so removing them will help reduce the population.

7 May 2018

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