Rabbit Control Legislation:
The Pest Act 1954
- It is the responsibility of the occupier of the
land to control rabbit populations. MAFF or DEFRA as it is now known,
have the power to enforce this work.
- It is illegal to spread Myxomatosis.
- Specifies the type of spring trap and the setting
thereof (within the overhang of the hole) and the trap must be visited
at least once a day between sunrise and sunset.
Protection of Animals Act 1911
- This act makes it an offence to lay poison bait
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
- This act prohibits self-locking snares. Any other
snares are to visited daily at dawn and at dusk.
- Snares are not to be set where there is a risk
to other wild animals.
Ground Game Act 1880 (amended by Wildlife and Countryside
- The occupier of the land, or one other authorised
person is authorised to shoot rabbits at night (game licence not
Prevention of Damage by Rabbits Act 1939
- This act permits the use of fumigants in rabbit
Control of Pesticide Regulations 1986
- Approved use of fumigants and repellents.
There are many points to consider when doing
a gassing job for rabbits in what could be a public area or an industrial
site, a site survey would cover the following considerations...
- Safety considerations and risk assessment
including COSHH regulations.
- People on the site; employees, staff,
business visitors, members of the public, school children.
- Animals; farm animals, domestic animals
and wild animals.
- The nature, position and degree of infestation.
- Ownership of the site and it's surroundings.
- Status of the site with regards to public access or right
of way, as this will affect public safety.
- Actions which may need to be taken to ensure public,
employee/staff and any others safety.
- Timescale of the proposed control program and the reasons
why the program is necessary in the first place.
Added to this you should also think of...
- The map reference for the site.
- The area of the site in hectares needing management.
- The status of the site e.g. Site of Scientific Interest.
- The names of any individuals or groups which need to
be informed of the intended control program.
- Written versions of any permissions needed from any Third
Parties such as English Nature etc.
Then you should also think of...
- The infestation present.
- Previous survey information if there is any.
- Records of any previous control measures carried out.
- Species causing the infestation.
- Degree of infestation.
There is a lot to think about as you can see, but let us
assume that we have completed all the above, got our written permissions
and everbody has been cleared away off the site. We have decided to carry
out the treatment using "Phostoxin" (Aluminium Phosphide PH3)....so
lets do it...
- The first thing we have to take into
account is that Phostoxin is a fumigant and so we will require two men
on site at least to do the job, this is required by Health and Safety,
ideally three if the site is overgrown.
- Transportation of fumigants must be carried
out by vehicles which have a seperate cab to the carrying part of the
- Carriage of Dangerous Goods Regulations
apply and a TremCard should be carried.
- Aluminium Phosphide is activated by damp
or wet conditions hence treatments should not be carried out in wet weather.
- Do not use Phostoxin within 3 metres
of any farm or dwelling buildings.
- Do not use in public places or alongside
roads or paths open to the public.
- Children and livestock should be excluded
from the treated area for 48 hours afterwards.
- Divide the area to be treated into distinct
- Identify the wind direction and decide
which burrows are to be treated first keeping holes already treated downwind.
Work into the wind, selecting sections to be treated so that those already
gassed are downwind of the next section.
- Walk over the area identifying all the
burrows, this should have been done at the time of the survey, but it
may apply that somebody else did the original survey, so make sure for
your own peace of mind. Pay particular attention to "bolt" holes
which could be hidden by overhanging grass or bracken/heather etc. Also
disused holes which may contain dry leaves or detritus should be cleaned
out so they are visible during treatment.
- Assuming that we are going to use a Phostoxin
applicator, and starting with the holes furthest downwind, we insert the
applicator into the hole and deposit one tablet. The other operator follow
closely behind and seal each hole with a turf grass side downwards. Care
must be taken not to drop soil onto the tablet.
- Continue to treat and block each hole
systematically ensuring no holes are missed. Holes must be blocked thoroughly
and covered with at least 15 cm of soil.
- When one section has been treated move
on to the next section always moving upwind.
- Treated sections should be re-checked
after 2 - 4 hours and any re-opened holes sealed. Remove and bury any
rabbits found on the surface beside the re-opened holes.
- The maximum concentration of Phosphine
is reached after 8 - 10 hours depending on temperature and humidity.
- Remove and bury any residual dust from
the applicator before storing and transporting.
- Follow-up after 48 hours and retreat
any holes which have been opened up.
The Health & Safety Executive
issue an agricultural information sheet Number 22 outlining the procedures
which should be taken when gassing.
Fencing is a humane and environmentally acceptable method
of reducing crop losses caused by rabbits. The increasing number of enquiries
from farmers about the cost-effectiveness of different types of rabbit proof
fences resulted in the Central Science Laboratory (CSL) of the Ministry
of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) now known as DEFRA initiating
a research program in 1980.
Where should fencing be used? Fencing
is a particularly useful method of protecting crops where rabbit burrows
are inaccessible and therefore where measures such as gassing rabbits in
their burrows, the most effective way of reducing their numbers, cannot
be used. Burrows can be inaccessible because they are located in dense vegetation,
which farmers may be reluctant to clear owing to conservation or game interests,
or because they are located on neighbouring properties. Fences should be
erected along the boundary between the field to be protected and the infested
harbourage. If the field is not to be completely encircled, the fence should
be extended beyond the end of the infested harbourage by at least 150 metres
at each end. Either wire-mesh netting fences and electric fences can be
used. There are two types of electric fence: the electric netting fence
and the strained wire fence, a scaled down version of the type used to control
cattle. Both types of fence can be electrified by the same energiser.
Electric Fence Precautions:
- If you are not sure whether there
are telephone lines nearby (they may be laid underground), you
should consult your local British Telecom office before you erect
the fence: electric fencing can cause interference on telephone
- You should avoid erecting these
fences beneath overhead power cables. If this is unavoidable,
the supply company should be consulted.
- Careful consideration should be given to the
erection of electric netting fences near ponds with frogs or toads,
particularly natterjack toads which are protected and a rare species,
as contact may kill them.
- Warning notices should be attached to the fence
at least every 100 metres where the fence runs alongside a public
footpath or in fact anywhere where the public may have access.
Badger Gates: From
time to time, wire netting fences erected to exclude rabbits can be damaged
by badgers, especially if the fences are erected across the badger runs
and this damage can often provide rabbits with a means of access to crop
fields. If badger gates are to be erected then the runs need to be identified
at the same time as the fence line is determined. The woodwork of the gate
should be treated in the same manner as the fencing posts thus giving both
the same life expectancy. When the netting is erected a gap should be cut
in it at the point where the run crosses the fence line. The gap should
measure about 200 mm across and 270 mm high; these dimensions provide the
small overlaps needed for stapling the netting to the frame of the badger
gate. Where spring steel straining wire is used to support the netting,
sods should be put under the ground level wire across the run so that the
wire is at ground level and can be earthed over. For a week nothing else
should be done but the fence should be checked daily for signs of damage
and to see if badgers are crossing the gap.
The next stage is to lay the floor which
should be a block of wood 190 x 40 x 75 mm (see drawing below). This block
should be placed just below soil level and replaces the sod under the ground-level
line wire. The line wire should be stapled to the block. Block and line
wire should again be earthed over. In the course of the next few days, badgers
passing through the gap will wear away the covering soil but should accept
the wired block. A second week should be allowed to pass with daily checks
to ensure that the run and gateway are in use.
If all is well, the drilled uprights complete
with the lintel should be driven in either side of the floor at the beginning
of the third week and the netting stapled around the uprights and the lintel.
This frame should be driven in to provide a gap 270 mm high and 190 mm wide
(see drawing below). During the next week the gateway should be observed
and if use continues, a wooden half-door can be suspended from the top of
the frame, swinging freely from nails through the holes drilled previously
in the uprights. Provided use continues, a full size door, which will weigh
about 1.1 kg and measures 180 x 250 x 40 mm, can be hung after another week.
This door will allow badgers but not rabbits to cross through the fence.
The door should have a 5 mm gap at the sides and 10 mm gaps at the top and
bottom around it to ensure that it will continue to swing freely whatever
the weather. The door can consist of a wood frame of 40 x 40 mm timber covered
with wire mesh not more than 30 mm in mesh size.
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© Stuart M Bennett 2001