Pest Animals are like weeds; from a farming point of view, they are the “wrong animal in the wrong place”.
There are a whole range of animals that have developed into major pest problems for farmers, from rabbits, mice, dogs, pigs, goats, wombats, kangaroos, foxes, wolves, bears, and monkeys to elephants, rhinosaurus, lions and tigers in African countries. In addition, birds and bats can be major pests for fruit growers.
Animals tend to develop into pests when they either have a presence in unsustainable numbers which affects the productivity of the farm, or when they cause economic damage from their actions; such as eating fruit or grains, wrecking structures and causing erosion from overgrazing and burrowing activities.
The issues and management of rabbits is a good example of the matters that need to addressed when dealing with pest animals. Many of the management techniques applied to rabbits can apply equally to other animals with adaptions for size and mode of activity.
Wild rabbits have been causing widespread devastation in Australia for over 100 years. Rabbits have found conditions in Australia and drier areas of New Zealand to be ideal.
Control methods as listed below have impacted on the rabbit population. However, the rabbit’s breeding vigour and adaptability have made effective control, particularly in some remote and less productive areas, impossible. Experience clearly shows that no one control method can solve Australia’s rabbit problem. A combination of biological control and conventional methods is needed.
Both countries have attempted to control the rabbit population with a combination of measures including:
• destroying warrens through ripping,
• ploughing, blasting, and fumigating;
• poison baiting;
• shooting and hunting with dogs and ferrets;
• releasing predators (such as cats and foxes);
• biological control (for example, the myxoma virus, RCD and rabbit fleas);
• rabbit proof fencing.
Yet rabbits persist. They are an introduced species with no natural predator in Australia and New Zealand. An attempt to introduce foxes to control rabbits has resulted in a small impact on the rabbit population, but also in the creation on another pest animal.
Many naturally occurring species can become a pest when circumstances, such as wildfire, reduce their normal feed and they search elsewhere for food. Some areas of Australia experience a “plague” of cockatoos when wildfire or drought has pushed their populations out from their natural regions.
Wherever you farm, there will be a pest animal; a Pest Management Plan is a helpful tool that may be adjusted as required.