Reporting back

Lower rabbit levels and reduce spread

Date: 01 July 2018
Reporting Frequency: Annually
Category: Biodiversity and Biosecurity


Assist landowners to maintain or lower rabbit levels and reduce spread.


On track.

About this goal

Feral rabbits are listed as a pest in Canterbury’s Regional Pest Management Plan 2017-2038.

Why does it matter?

In areas of high and extremely rabbit-prone land, population increase is not curbed by natural mechanisms and can quickly build to high levels. These areas occur largely in the Upper Waitaki Valley, Mackenzie Basin and the inland Kaikōura area.

Rabbits can cause a number of adverse effects. At high numbers, the control costs can be prohibitively expensive. Their impact reduces available grazing for domestic stock and subsequently decreases the financial returns to landowners and their ability to fund control.

What's being done?

Canterbury land occupiers are responsible for feral rabbit control on their land, and it is important to the Canterbury community that neighbours are not negatively impacted by another’s inaction for rabbit control. Feral rabbit populations must be kept at level 3 or lower on the Modified McLean Scale.

Monitoring and results

Environment Canterbury collects rabbit trend information annually in early spring from approximately 2400 kilometres of fixed nightcount transects spread throughout the eleven pest districts in the Canterbury region.

These transects were established between 1990 and 1993 and form the most comprehensive rabbit monitoring data set within New Zealand.

Monitoring in the 2017 spring indicated that rabbit levels have increased from the previous year in seven of the region’s eleven pest districts: Mackenzie, Omarama, South Canterbury, Ashburton, Selwyn, Amuri and Kaikoura.

Four districts experienced reductions in average rabbit levels: Kurow, Banks Peninsula, Waikari, and Ashley.

The chart below highlights trends across the Mackenzie Basin, Pukaki and Tekapo since 1990.

The number of rabbits per kilometre decreased over this period from 34.38 in 1990 to 17.82 in 2017; however rabbit numbers remain problematic particularly in the eastern Mackenzie and the Tekapo/central area of the basin, which has higher prone soil types and associated increased rabbit levels.

What’s happening in the Mackenzie?

Historically, the Mackenzie basin contains the most rabbit-prone soil in Canterbury. Here, the challenge of reducing rabbit numbers is far greater than elsewhere, as shown in the graph above, particularly in the Tekapo and Eastern Mackenzie subareas.

Rabbit levels by district 2018

Rabbit levels by district

Find out more

Find out more about our feral rabbit management programme.

Read about the work being done to manage other animal pests in Canterbury.

Find out how ratepayer funding supports this work with our Rates Tool.


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