Rabbits are distributed to different degrees throughout Southland but are absent from Stewart Island/Rakiura and offshore Islands.

What is it?

European rabbits are small to medium sized herbivores, grey-brown in colour with a white underside and white under their tail. Rabbits are smaller than hares, with shorter ears and a tendency to burrow.

What is the problem?

Rabbits cause economic and environmental damage, particularly when exposed to favourable environmental conditions. Prolific breeding generally occurs during spring and if drier conditions, short pasture and food sources are plentiful, rabbits can reach high numbers. Rabbits compete with stock for food, causing damage to crops and plantings. Burrowing is a concern in areas where short grass and dry conditions creates ideal habitat for rabbits.

How to control it

The most effective time of year to control rabbits is during the late autumn and winter when their population numbers are lowest, and before they begin to breed again in the spring and summer.

Control MethodExample
ShootingFor rural landowners only a with firearms licence. Most effective at night using .22 rifle or shotgun. Always follow the firearms
safety code.
PoisoningIn bait stations only, using Pindone rabbit pellets available
from farm supply stores.
FumigantsMagtoxin can be used for targeting juveniles in burrows. Available from farm supply stores.
Commercial pest controllersContact Environment Southland for information on recommended contractors or the Yellow Pages under pest control.
PreventionExclusion fencing, plant protectors (drums, plastic, wire), repellents.

For details on control methods, see our factsheets on rabbits.


Rabbits are a suppression animal on mainland Southland. They are too well established to eradicate from the mainland, so our aim is to suppress their numbers to minimise impacts on the Southland community and environment. Rabbits are an exclusion animal on Stewart Island/Rakiura, offshore and inland islands.


Land occupiers within Southland shall control rabbits on the land they occupy to reasonable levels at their own expense to reasonable levels. No person shall possess, sell, breed, transport or release live rabbits on or to Stewart Island/Rakiura, any offshore island, any island or area enclosed by a predator proof fence. No person shall release any rabbit into the wild within Southland. For a full explanation of the rules for rabbits, read our factsheets on rabbits.


Each year Environment Southland carries out rabbit monitoring at approximately 30 areas of concern to estimate rabbit levels. This typically happens over autumn and winter.

Page reviewed: 15 Jun 2016 4:30pm