Leporidae - Lepus europaeus occidentalis

What does it look like?

Hares are easily distinguished from rabbits.  They are much larger, with long, black-tipped ears and large muscular hindquarters.  Hares are mostly brown in colour, with a lighter brown belly.  The tail is black on top with a white underside. The front legs are about half the size of the hind legs and appear undeveloped in comparison. 

Hares tend to be solitary animals and live above ground, whereas rabbits live in large groups and usually nest underground. They are are found in most pastoral and grassland areas of New Zealand and feed on numerous plant species. Primarily nocturnal; during daylight hours they crouch in a "form", an oval shaped depression in vegetation or soft ground.

Why is it a problem?

Hares cause damage to new tree plantings and horticultural crops, amenity plantings and shelter belts by eating tree bark and young shoots.  Hare population densities appear to be self-regulated so they do not undergo the kinds of irruptions seen in rabbits. Adult hares are remarkably free from predation in New Zealand and are also relatively free of parasites and disease, which further promotes their successful population expansion.

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.


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