20 Apr 2018

The Return of the Rabbits

From Country Life, 9:42 pm on 20 April 2018
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Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

Rabbiter Shaun Moloney sometimes spends eight hours a night with one eye planted in the optic of his gun.

The Queenstown-based sharpshooter bumps over rabbit warrens, leaning against the padded frame in the back of a truck searching for rabbits.

Often they're not hard to find. Rabbit numbers have exploded in Central Otago.

Shaun says a warm winter and the long, hot summer have created perfect conditions for rabbits to breed.

"The worst night... I shot 823 rabbits myself over eight hours with about 850 rounds and we could have gone and done the same again a week later."

The culling took place on one property; a 50-hectare vineyard.

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Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

Shaun uses a military grade thermal optic which highlights rabbits as warm, glowing dots.

"I can put a spotlight through an area and see three rabbits or I can put a thermal on there and see 12."

He says farmers are desperate to rid their properties of the pest because eight rabbits eat the same amount of grass as one sheep.