There are upsides and downsides to moving to a rural village and trying to establish a new garden. Yes, we have beautiful views and (for the moment) no immediate neighbours. But we also have rabbits and the very occasional kangaroo. Fair dos to the kangaroos; they’re native and we are the intruders.
Not so the rabbits, an introduced scourge to Australia that almost destroyed the hopes of farmers in the 19th and 20th centuries. Rabbits had become so prevalent within 10 years of their introduction in 1859 that two million could be shot or trapped annually without having any noticeable effect on the population. It was the fastest spread ever recorded of any mammal anywhere in the world.
They ate every form of vegetation, ring-barked trees and caused the extinction of some types of native flora and this in turn led to erosion. Various methods were tried over the years, including shooting, fencing, poisoning, burrow ripping etc but nothing really stemmed the numbers. From the 1950’s various biological methods were used, including myxoma virus and calici virus but the cunning little buggers always adapt.
Anyway, back to Chez Jacquier in 2020 and the resident rabbit population in the adjoining paddock. We started to notice their marauding habits soon after we began planting our imagined botanical paradise. Poisoning is out due to the number of domestic dogs and cats in the vicinity. Shooting is likely to unsettle the local human population somewhat. The owner seems disinclined to rip the burrows. And we are reluctant to turn our perimeters into the equivalent of Stalag 13.
Scouring the interweb proved of limited use, usually offering up the unsatisfactory strategies outlined above and some that were just plain wrong. They hate rosemary, we read. They ate our rosemary plantings the night after they were planted.
But my indefatigable wife searched on and found a reference to rabbits being abominated by the smell of human hair. So she experimented on the nearest burrow with the clippings from her own recent mop chop and lo and behold it worked! Harnessing the offcuts of our neighbour’s hairdresser, she then stuffed the remaining burrows (a sort of lockdown) and waited.
Elimination was too much to ask for but instead of dozens of cute environmental savages gamboling nearby, there are now a small handful and it would appear that the shock and awe tactics are working. Who would have thought that all that was needed to put them off was our smelly tresses? But, like always, they’ll adapt. Stay tuned for further episodes.