BINKYBUNNY FORUMS > RESCUE EFFORTS FOR SHELTERS > Ideas needed on how to humanely deal with a feral rabbit population
Last Post by peppypoo at 2/18/2011 8:41 PM (23 Replies)
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User is Offline jerseygirl
Australia
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2/01/2011 10:05 PM

Over the weekend I discovered there is a feral rabbit population growing down at one of the beach suburbs. My sister and family booked into a park for a short holiday and told me there were rabbits running around everywhere.

I contacted binky bunny member Kafrn to see if she were aware of it as this is more local to her. She was aware and the park had even contacted her to help resolve the problem. (You may have learnt from her that she has inadvertantly become known as the go-to person regarding rabbits in her area). 

They had told her it started when a holiday maker released her rabbits. Management was considering trapping and killing the feral rabbits. Also there was mention of poisoning....  Yet the park has notices to their holiday makers not to harrass the rabbits. Personally, I think this is to protect themselves and maybe to keep quiet the intentions to cull. The rabbits seem to live underneath the decking of the onsite cabins. Probably in burrows also, I'm not really sure.

Just today I have learnt that there may be a problem developing of people dumping rabbits there also .   Sound familiar?

Other then trying to start some public awareness in media about dumping,  I'm not sure what else we can do.

1) to stop the dumping

2) to deal with the already existing population.

I think calici and myxomatosis (which has become epidemic) will actually take many of these rabbits.

We're all ears for any advice people can give.


User is Offline Monkeybun
Hillsboro, Oregon
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2/01/2011 11:01 PM
well, to help stop the multiplying you could try trapping, and spaying or neutering them, neutering would the cheaper option. Then the boys wouldn't be able to do their thing. You'd still have the issue of people dumping the bunnies, but all you can really do about that is put the word out that dumping the bunnies isn't letting them be free, its letting them be food. Not sure what else to do really Maybe try contacting different bunny vets, and see if they would donate time to neuter the poor things so it doesn't get too out of control?

User is Offline Kafrn
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2/01/2011 11:48 PM
Fantastic idea about the neutering, Im a little worried about the costs of this procedure though. The rabbits live underground i burrows throughout the property, and there are an estimated 100 of them. We would have to be sure that we had caught every male rabbit in order for the neuter to be effective.... Plus it would be one heck of a fundraising effort, and we cant release them back there because the site they are on wants them gone by any means. ....
What weighs 35 tonnes, has four fuzzy ears and is 80 million years old? Two rabbits riding a brontosaurus.

User is Offline jerseygirl
Australia
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2/02/2011 1:55 AM

I should add there are really only 2 groups that do rabbit adoptions - RSPCA and SA Rabbit Rescue which is really small scale compared to US rabbit rescues. I'm completely lost on what we could do for these rabbits. I think in a lot of cases of these round ups, many are euthanised for health reasons and also because there is little else to be done.
I hate to say it but if it comes to that, I'd rather it be sooner than later leave them to keep breeding and have countless rabbits die to predators and disease. That could go on for a long time.

My 1st thought was to at least do a round up and get them of this place... but then what? I know Kafrn and myself are no way equipped to deal with these numbers.


User is Offline Monkeybun
Hillsboro, Oregon
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2/02/2011 9:51 AM
Well, what I can think of with my coffee deprived brain right now is that if you CAN catch them all, you could maybe call up all those SPCA's and the rescue and see if you can come up with a rabbit adoption event. Spread the word via the vets, website, flyers, whatever. See if you can't get the poor things adopted out if possible. Which may not be, if they are that feral. Hmms. I will think more on it.

User is Offline jerseygirl
Australia
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2/02/2011 2:25 PM

Appreciate it MB.

I have to be careful myself not to think too negatively. Just because rabbit adoption is not big here doesn't mean something like that can't happen. I'm trying to be more open minded.  Coffee......good idea!


User is Offline Kafrn
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2/02/2011 3:22 PM
Mmmmmm coffee.....

That is a really good idea!!! Jersey maybe you and I can go to the caravan park one day next week and perhaps just suss out the situation, Population, and habitation?
What weighs 35 tonnes, has four fuzzy ears and is 80 million years old? Two rabbits riding a brontosaurus.

User is Offline LittlePuffyTail
New Brunswick, Canada
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2/04/2011 1:45 AM
Maybe one of the local vets would help out by neutering some of the herd at reduced costs? You could also try raising money by placing cans at pet/feed stores and local businesses (with permission of course) to assist with spay/neuters. Possibly put an ad looking for experienced foster homes in the area? This is the two main ways a local group in my city helps the local feral cat colonies.
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User is Offline LBJ10
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2/04/2011 2:53 PM
They have capture programs here for feral cats where they are caught in traps, neutered/spayed, and released. They do this for the really wild feral cats because they tend to not make very good pets for people to adopt. Younger animals, however, are often fostered and then put up for adoption since they have a better chance of becoming a loving pet. I don't know how it works for rabbits, since they are prey animals rather than predators. It may be better for the animal psychologically if they are allowed to live out their lives in the wild after being fixed, but perhaps not. Do "wild" bunnies tend to calm down after being fostered? I don't know. If that is the case though, I would suggest trapping them and keeping them out of the wild. But I guess that is what others have already suggested, so I'm probably no help.

User is Offline Andi
B.C. Canada
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2/09/2011 8:25 AM
Just a quick note, a group in my area neutered some feral rabbits and returned them back to the same area, the problem was they did them in groups, then released back with the ones who were still in tack, the sputered bunnies were attacked and even killed by the non-sputered ones
It was real bad press for the group trying to help with the situation.

So far re-locating after spaying and neutering has been working, but most are not going to homes, but sanctuaries.
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User is Offline Monkeybun
Hillsboro, Oregon
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2/09/2011 9:19 AM
Maybe Kafrn can start a sanctuary on her farm

User is Offline jerseygirl
Australia
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2/09/2011 5:21 PM
I'm betting Kafrn has thought about it!
Something similar crossed my mind... my brother has a property and I briefly (BRIEFLY) pondered moving in with him and bringing 100+ rabbits... He would think I was NUTS.

These sorts of situations do my head in a bit. I admire groups and individuals that take on these problems. I'm wondering if just to start gettiing some preliminary ideas about numbers and what's been considered regarding this would be the best place to start. Put something out in local paper or even a Facebook group and get some feedback. There could well be others in the community that are aware of this group and also wondering if they could do something. Even those unaware but have really good ideas once learning of the situation. So just start the ball rolling or get an idea if one already is that we're not aware of. Coincidently, Kafrn and myself are hopefully going to a meeting next week for a companion rabbit group. I'm thinking having more contacts of rabbit welfare minded people will be a good thing!

My fear is that when you put something like this "out there" there's a possibility we'll learn of other populations elsewhere. No doubt they exist. Have to be realstic about what we can really do...
So i'm feeling like an ostrich with my head in the sand at the moment!

User is Offline nugget
Minnesota
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2/09/2011 7:10 PM

reading this last week made me think of a situation we have in my home town...Duluth, MN. Near Duluth is an area called Park Point. Park Point is, essentially, an island near the point of Lake Superior. It's only connection to the "main land" is through bridges. Years and years ago people started releasing their domesticated rabbits, with no way off the island these rabbits quickly multiplied in this confined area. Here is a little video I found to share...


 


User is Offline jerseygirl
Australia
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2/11/2011 5:54 PM
Thanks nugget !


User is Offline jerseygirl
Australia
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2/11/2011 6:04 PM

Just a small update: Unfortunately, disease it taking these rabbits fast. Maybe even faster than anything we could organise to make a difference. The Park owners told Kafrn that it's myxi. I'm actually wondering if it's another disease or that they are possibly being poisoned...
For the record, I am not accusing the park owners of doing this. Poison could be set out by anyone, or the rabbits are inadvertantly eating toxic plants, tainted food or bait intended for rats or mice .

EDITED (02/16/11) :  I did get some of this wrong. ^  It was not the park owners but people staying there that told Kafrn of the rabbits dying. I've since heard that the very possibly was poisoned grain put out for the rabbits.   The way they are going is very typical of poisoning.  

Just a few people being irresponsible and letting their rabbits go has lead to countless rabbits dying in this horrible way. I look at TimTim and think all those are just like him really. Like all our pet ones we care so much for.  However, these are being viewed as numbers, pests, problems etc. A problem people created.  A familiar story...


User is Offline LBJ10
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2/17/2011 7:25 PM

I'm not wishing to upset you, but I was reading something today about biological control and I thought of this thread. It is in a textbook for my class. It reads:

Biological control... has a poor record against pest control. One of the few successes is the use of Myxoma against rabbits. It holds the density of rabbits in Australia to about 20% of their uncontrolled density despite the decline in virulence of the virus and of susceptibility of the rabbit, both a product of massive natural selection.



So Myxoma is used as a biological control agent? I had no idea, I was shocked when I read this.

Then under control by manipulating fertility, it reads:

Two rabbit populations in Australia were artificially sterilized to varying degrees. The reduced recruitment of newborn was compensated by a density-dependent survival of the remaining juveniles. Female sterility had to reach 80% before a decline in population was observed.



Basically this means that reducing the number being born leads to an increase in survival rate of those that are born. So sterilizing doesn't do much good in reducing the population size unless a vast majority of the females are sterilized.

There is also a segment later on about genetic engineering. It reads:

Tyndale-Biscoe suggested using a pathogen of low virulence to vector a foreign gene that would disrupt reproduction. He suggested particularly that the Myxoma virus could be used to carry an inserted gene that would reduce the birth rate of the European rabbit in Australia.



I have heard of using viruses as a cloning vector in bacteria, but never in mammals. Is that even possible? At any rate, I found this all very interesting especially since you were talking about it on here. I guess rabbits must be a pretty big concern in Australia if it was mentioned so many times in my book.


User is Offline jerseygirl
Australia
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2/18/2011 5:35 AM
So Myxoma is used as a biological control agent? I had no idea, I was shocked when I read this.


Yes, they introduced it here in Australia for that purpose in 1950. It was effective initially but over time the wild(actually feral) population developed an immunity. The rabbits today most susceptible are our pets and farmed rabbits. The virus has mutated a few times and there have also been releases of new strains. I'd be interested to know if that first of your quotes from your textbook holds true today. That myxo is still regarded as an effective control?
 

Another control used is Rabbit Haemorrhagic Virus (known here as calici virus). This was "accidently" released in the mainland in 1995. I say accidently because they were doing testing with it on an Australian island off the coast and the virus spread ahead of schedule. They did later controlled releases and had always intended to. We can vaccinate our pet rabbits against this virus but not Myxoma.

There is a vaccine for myxo available made from Shope Fibroma virus. Authorities here will not allow the vaccine because they say the immunity could transfer to the wild population (who have already gained some natural immunity anyway!). This supposed spread of immunity from vaccinated rabbits has not been the case in other countries that have been using the vaccine and also have wild populations of the European rabbit.

At the moment, myxomatosis cases in our pet rabbits is reaching epidemic proportions due to the unusual weather patterns we are having here. The high humidity has meant the main carriers, mosquitoes, have thrived. I have not actually heard any reports on there being a major rise in myxo deaths in the wild populations though...
If our pet rabbits are infected, they commonly die within 48hrs or 2 weeks at most. It's mostly suggested that we euthanise them as soon as it is a confirmed case so as not to prolong suffering.

 

So sterilizing doesn't do much good in reducing the population size unless a vast majority of the females are sterilized.


So this sterilization is done through a virus that makes the rabbit Doe become infertile? I hadn't heard of that happening here before. I had heard of something like this being proposed for controlling the cane toad population. I think it caused sterility in the male toads. I really don't know if it was done through gene cloning (if that is even the correct term!).

 

Tyndale-Biscoe suggested using a pathogen of low virulence to vector a foreign gene that would disrupt reproduction. He suggested particularly that the Myxoma virus could be used to carry an inserted gene that would reduce the birth rate of the European rabbit in Australia

This is meaning a myxoma strain that is not fatal I assume? Just causes some sterility amoung the rabbit population?

 

I guess rabbits must be a pretty big concern in Australia if it was mentioned so many times in my book.


They were at one time. I really don't know the impact they have today but 50 or more years ago they were a major pest problem on agricultural land and to natural habitats of native animals. The "wild" rabbit is an introduced species. Same species as our domestic pets. They were brought here in the mid 1800's and numbers grew to plague proportions. 
Today, controls in problem areas mostly involve gassing or baiting with oat grain tainted with pidone. Well, that's 2 I know of anyway.


User is Offline LBJ10
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2/18/2011 7:57 AM

Jersey - To answer your questions...

I'd be interested to know if that first of your quotes from your textbook holds true today. That myxo is still regarded as an effective control?
I'm not sure, the book doesn't elaborate on this too much. The book was published in 2006, so it is fairly new. Basically it is saying that the rabbits have become mostly immune to the virus and the virus has become less virulent, both due to the natural selection process. So that part is consistent with what you said. So yes, it does seem to be contradicting itself unless it means that it had been successful in the past.

So this sterilization is done through a virus that makes the rabbit Doe become infertile?
Not necessarily by a virus. I think in this case the rabbits were being captured and spayed.

This is meaning a myxoma strain that is not fatal I assume? Just causes some sterility amoung the rabbit population?
I was half asleep last night. At first I was thinking vector cloning, but this is more like gene therapy. Basically, the virus is deactived so they don't cause harm to the animal and it is used as a vector to transport a gene to the cells of the animal. My guess is that it probably has something to do with hormone production, which would cause sterility from lack of ovulation. I'm just guessing at that, but it makes sense. The trick though it that it would have to be in vivo, meaning the animal is injected and that's it... the virus takes care of the rest.


User is Offline jerseygirl
Australia
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2/18/2011 4:04 PM
Thanks. ^

The term "artificially sterilized" had me thinking by biological means (viral? ) since we were on that subject.

Sorry I wrote so much above. Myxi has been on my mind a lot.

User is Offline LBJ10
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2/18/2011 4:04 PM

You're welcome. I know, the textbook is so confusing. I get lost reading it sometimes.

 

I've been looking to see if an article/journal is available for the study by Tyndale-Biscoe, but I'm not having any luck yet.

 

I've got the title of the article: Virus-vectored immunocontraception of feral mammals, published in 1994 in Reproduction, Fertility, and Development. The article isn't available for free anywhere, even through the university's library. I did, however, find an article talking about cats that refers to the article by Tyndale-Biscoe. Here's the link:

http://www.ese.u-psud.fr/epc/conser...s/VVIC.pdf

It says:

As an alternative, immunocontra-
ception is based on reducing birth rates (Alexander
& Bialy 1994; Tyndale-Biscoe 1994). Immunocontra-
ception is a process by which the immune system of
an individual is made to attack its own reproductive
cells and hence lead to sterility. This is achieved by
infecting individuals using a gamete protein that
triggers an immune response; the resulting antibo-
dies bind to these proteins and block fertilization
(Bradley, Hinds & Bird 1997). Infection occurs by
injection (e.g. for large mammals; Kirkpatrick et al.
1997), bait (e.g. for small carnivores; Bradley, Hinds
& Bird 1997) or living vectors (e.g. for small herbi-
vores; Tyndale-Biscoe 1994; Cowan 1996; Rodger
1997; Smith, Walmsley & Polkinghorne 1997).
Virus-vectored immunocontraception (VVIC), for
example, utilizes a species-speci®c virus to dissemi-
nate this vaccine through a pest population by pla-
cing the gene encoding the reproductive protein into
the genome of the virus (Tyndale-Biscoe 1994). This
potentially powerful new technique has generated a
signi®cant impetus of research e€ort into feasibility.

Sorry if that didn't copy well. Interesting stuff though!

 

 


User is Offline LBJ10
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2/18/2011 4:26 PM
Okay, I edited that last post.

User is Offline jerseygirl
Australia
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2/18/2011 6:17 PM

My brain just exploded. Lol

Question: the live vector, this is using a virus that would have to be injected into the animal?

I agree, it is interesting. My mind of course when to rabbits. If something like this could be used for rabbit populations, I wonder what the effects would be in Does if the reproductive cells are reduced, could the ones leading to uterine cancers and endometriosis also be destroyed. That couldbe a good side effect! Another thought is the impact having non fertile Does would have in a group. Rabbit groups are matriarchal and dominant Does (I read) can prevent Bucks impregnating subordinate Does. The mind boggles!

By the way, I altered thread title a little but not due to this topic. I just read it and thought it might attract one-off posters to make suggestions of less desirable methods of culling.


User is Offline LBJ10
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2/18/2011 6:41 PM

No biggie.
Yes, generally a live vector is a virus. It would have to be injected somehow and the genes are transferred to the animal's cells by the virus itself. In vivo simply means that the genes are being transferred to the cells while the cells are inside the animal's body. This is opposed to ex vivo, where cells are removed from the body, the genes are delivered to the cells, and then the cells are transplanted back into the body. Obviously, if the genes could simply be delivered by the virus it would vastly simplify things. That was all that I meant before, that that is really amazing and apparently this person was able to do it (or maybe not, who knows without reading the article exactly how they did it, haha!).
You bring up some good questions about side effects. I wonder if such things have even been looked at as far as a study goes. I don't know how long the study conducted by this person was, so it is hard to say if there was even the potential for observation of such effects. It would be interesting to read the article if I can find it somewhere to view for free.


User is Offline peppypoo
Texas
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2/18/2011 8:41 PM

Just caught up on this thread, that's an interesting method of population control, hm. Might a more "humane" way to do things (well, don't know the side effects) but at the same time it also sounds like a fast-track selective pressure that will breed resistance pretty quickly? I tried to look up the article you mentioned on my university's databases...while I've had no luck yet, I've found a slew of related articles, some rabbit-specific, on PubMed:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/e...id=7831481

[edit] Argh, most of the really promising looking articles are in the journal "Reproduction, Fertility, and Development," which I apparently don't have immediate access to.  The librarians claim that with some notice, they can procure most articles for students to peruse..maybe I'll put in a request.  So that's where my tuition goes, hmm.  I did however have access to download the full text of a review titled "Biological control of vertebrate pests using virally vectored immunocontraception" that actually cites the Tyndale-Biscoe paper and has a bit of specific discussion on the use of the myxoma virus in rabbits; if anyone is interested shoot me a PM and I can email it to you 

Tammo (RIP), Milo (RIP), Peppy, Remi

BINKYBUNNY FORUMS > RESCUE EFFORTS FOR SHELTERS > Ideas needed on how to humanely deal with a feral rabbit population

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