Resource Library


DATED: 31 Aug 2011

Version: Animal Pests - Rabbits (2nd edition)

Control methods


Night shooting

A successful night shoot can reduce a rabbit population by about 30 percent with two or three shoots necessary to gain good control. It is important to effectively cover all areas as any rabbits that have been missed become wary of a spotlight or the sound of a gun.

You must have a licence before using a firearm. Use a gun with extreme care, especially where there are likely to be people or animals nearby.


Rabbit poisons can affect all warm-blooded animals including humans. Read the instructions carefully before use.

Poisoning is the most cost-effective method of controlling rabbits. Poison is most effective from March to September, outside the main breeding season, when the young are likely to survive in burrows and re-infest an area.

Poisoned Rabbit.


Pindone is an anticoagulant which uses the same principle as rat poisons. A controlled substance licence (CSL) is not required to use pindone in pellet form, which may be laid around buildings and residential areas if treated with the same caution as rat poison. Keep away from children and pets and follow label directions.


Magtoxin is available as a small tablet which releases the toxic gas phosphine when exposed to moisture. Phosphine is a colourless gas with a garlic smell.

Typically 2-3 tablets down a rabbit burrow will be enough to kill any animals in it. When fumigating, make sure all burrow entrances are blocked. A small amount of water can be used to make the Magtoxin react if the soil is dry.

Fumigation is a good follow-up method to shooting or poisoning and will kill young rabbits that may otherwise survive.

Habitat change

Habitat modification is one of the best ways to limit rabbit numbers. Rabbits prefer short, over-grazed pasture so leaving grass a bit longer creates a less palatable place for them to live. Long grass also encourages rabbit diseases and will keep them wet and cold so the young are less likely to survive.

The removal of rubbish piles, vegetation, weeds – like gorse and blackberry – and logs can also help keep rabbit numbers permanently down.

Rabbit calicivirus (RCV)

NRC Officer Mike Knight with vial of calicivirus.Rabbit Calicivirus is a naturally occurring virus that came from wild rabbits in China in the 1980s and is now found in 41 countries.

It was introduced to New Zealand illegally in 1997 and spread widely, reducing rabbit numbers in many areas of the country. After the initial illegal release, the virus could be bought by the public and was released in Northland. It continues to kill in some places. RCV only infects rabbits of the species Oryctolagus cuniculus and has no reported affects on humans or other animals.

More information

For more rabbit control information control contact Northland Regional Council Biosecurity staff on:
0800 002 004 or refer to the Regional Pest Management Strategies at: or