Rabbits munch new plantings at Omaha

New plantings of native trees at Omaha North Reserve are being attacked by rabbits. Omaha Shorebird Protection Trust members and volunteers planted about 1350 plants in the backdunes near the predator proof fence on Sunday 18 August.

Most at risk are the houpara or 5-finger, which seem to be like “ice-cream” to rabbits. Within 6 days of planting nearly three quarters of the houpara have been browsed to varying degrees by rabbits (see graph). The problem is less-severe with some other species. Taupata and karo have both been browsed a little, but manuka, cabbage tree and flax seem to have hardly been touched by the rabbits.
We have dug out and re-potted about 50 of the worst-affected houpara so far, and intend to rescue more. We will keep them to recover and re-plant next season when hopefully the rabbits will be under control. We are also hoping to use a commercial rabbit repellant on the remaining plants which have not yet been severely browsed.
Rabbit Graph
The long term solution of course is to get rid of the rabbits, which not only browse the vegetation but also attract predators and can put at risk the breeding wader birds north of the fence. Before the Councils amalgamation, pindone rabbit poison was supplied by Council for residents to use in numerous white plastic bait stations around the Omaha Reserve and in some residential areas. Since amalgamation, however, that source of pindone has not been available because of a change in policy, and for two years rabbits have multiplied out of control to become a serious problem.
In recent weeks Auckland Council have installed large green bait stations, two inside the sanctuary area and two south of the fence, as well as two further south along Omaha Beach. Although they are apparently resulting in rabbit kills, there perhaps needs to be more of them to get the rabbits under control. Hopefully by next planting season the rabbit population will be much lower and no longer a threat to newly-planted trees and shrubs.

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