European rabbits are Australia’s most widespread and destructive environmental and agricultural vertebrate pest.
First arriving in Australia with the First Fleet, then deliberately released for hunting in the 1800’s, the rate of spread of the rabbit in Australia was the fastest of any colonising mammal anywhere in the world. They are now found in all states and territories, including several offshore islands.
Rabbits graze on native and introduced vegetation, crops and pastures. Rabbit grazing can prevent seedlings from regenerating and reduce crop yields, as well as increase competition for feed with livestock. Rabbits damage native plants and directly compete with native wildlife for food and shelter. Their digging and browsing leads to a loss of vegetation cover, which in turn can result in slope instability and soil erosion.
There are at least 304 Australian threatened species that may be adversely affected by competition and land degradation by rabbits.