USQ's David Berman with his rabbit detection dog, Sophie.
USQ's David Berman with his rabbit detection dog, Sophie. Kim Micke

Do everything to keep 'damaging' rabbits out of area: USQ

EVERY effort should be made to keep the economically and environmentally damaging rabbit out of our region, a University of Southern Queensland professor has warned.

Responding to Ipswich councillor David Pahlke's call for a common-sense discussion about domestic rabbits, USQ Wildlife Ecology research fellow David Berman said they should remain banned to prevent potential problems.

"We've got a very special part of Australia where we've kept wild rabbits out for more than 100 years - the Darling Downs Moreton area," he said.

"It's fairly important to look after this place that has never really felt the impact of damage by rabbits."

Dr Berman said owners of domestic rabbits in Sydney had caused problems.

"They release them or they escape and do go wild and we have wild populations," he said.

"In Sydney, there are a lot of populations of rabbits that have derived from domestic rabbits that have escaped or been released.

"We've seen examples of pet rabbits who have survived and survived quite well."

While Dr Berman agreed micro-chipped and desexed domestic rabbits posed a smaller risk, he said it would be difficult to enforce.

"The most important thing is; keep the rabbits out of these areas and not let them get to damaging levels," he said.

"In the scheme of things it could be a minor thing, but it could make it a lot harder for the rabbit board to keep rabbits out."

Rabbits are often viewed as harmless creatures, but Dr Berman stressed the significance of their devastating effect on the environment.

"They're beautiful little animals, they're amazing, but they breed so quickly," he said.

"They can eat every single bit of grass and leave little for native plants and animals.

"They allow foxes and other predators to increase in numbers and those foxes will eat native animals like bandicoots and bettongs."

It is estimated 150 rabbits can eat $1million worth of lettuce in a year - destroying farmers' crops.

"They can live in a hay shed and reproduce thousands of young rabbits in a year," Dr Berman said.

With the Lockyer Valley estimated to produce 90 per cent of the nation's winter vegetables, he said rabbits could cause "incredible economic and environmental damage".