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A method for mapping the distribution and density of rabbits and other vertebrate pests in Australia

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Berman, D. and Cooke, B. (2008) A method for mapping the distribution and density of rabbits and other vertebrate pests in Australia. In: Proceedings of the 14th Australasian Vertebrate Pest Conference, 10-13 June 2008, Canberra, ACT.

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Publisher URL: http://www.invasiveanimals.com


The European wild rabbit has been considered Australia’s worst vertebrate pest and yet little effort appears to have gone into producing maps of rabbit distribution and density. Mapping the distribution and density of pests is an important step in effective management. A map is essential for estimating the extent of damage caused and for efficiently planning and monitoring the success of pest control operations. This paper describes the use of soil type and point data to prepare a map showing the distribution and density of rabbits in Australia. The potential for the method to be used for mapping other vertebrate pests is explored.

The approach used to prepare the map is based on that used for rabbits in Queensland (Berman et al. 1998). An index of rabbit density was determined using the number of Spanish rabbit fleas released per square kilometre for each Soil Map Unit (Atlas of Australian Soils). Spanish rabbit fleas were released into active rabbit warrens at 1606 sites in the early 1990s as an additional vector for myxoma virus and the locations of the releases were recorded using a Global Positioning System (GPS). Releases were predominantly in arid areas but some fleas were released in south east Queensland and the New England Tablelands of New South Wales. The map produced appears to reflect well the distribution and density of rabbits, at least in the areas where Spanish fleas were released. Rabbit pellet counts conducted in 2007 at 54 sites across an area of south east South Australia, south eastern Queensland, and parts of New South Wales (New England Tablelands and south west) in soil Map Units where Spanish fleas were released, provided a preliminary means to ground truth the map. There was a good relationship between mean pellet count score and the index of abundance for soil Map Units. Rabbit pellet counts may allow extension of the map into other parts of Australia where there were no Spanish rabbit fleas released and where there may be no other consistent information on rabbit location and density.

The recent Equine Influenza outbreak provided a further test of the value of this mapping method. The distribution and density of domestic horses were mapped to provide estimates of the number of horses in various regions. These estimates were close to the actual numbers of horses subsequently determined from vaccination records and registrations. The soil Map Units are not simply soil types they contain information on landuse and vegetation and the soil classification is relatively localised. These properties make this mapping method useful, not only for rabbits, but also for other species that are not so dependent on soil type for survival.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Corporate Creators:QPIF
Additional Information:© Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre.
Keywords:Density; distribution; mapping; rabbits; vertebrate pests.
Subjects:Science > Invasive Species > Animals
Science > Invasive Species > Modelling > Animal
Live Archive:12 Jun 2009 02:39
Last Modified:03 Sep 2021 16:48

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