Winning team make kill of 1664

The winning team in the Great Easter Bunny Hunt was the Beige Brigade Wolfpack (from left) Jason Gerken, of Winton, Marty Taylor, of Gore, Nathan Dawson, of Makarewa, John Clearwater, of Castlerock, Steve Nunns, of Invercargill, Chris Ramage, of Nightcaps, Bruce Paterson, of Scotts Gap, and Jake Williams, of Kaiwera. The team shot 1664 rabbits as its contribution to the 22,904 tally from the 24-hour event. Photo by Lynda Van Kempen.
The winning team in the Great Easter Bunny Hunt was the Beige Brigade Wolfpack (from left) Jason Gerken, of Winton, Marty Taylor, of Gore, Nathan Dawson, of Makarewa, John Clearwater, of Castlerock, Steve Nunns, of Invercargill, Chris Ramage, of Nightcaps, Bruce Paterson, of Scotts Gap, and Jake Williams, of Kaiwera. The team shot 1664 rabbits as its contribution to the 22,904 tally from the 24-hour event. Photo by Lynda Van Kempen.
Row upon row of dead rabbits covering Pioneer Park in Alexandra on Saturday bought satisfied smiles to the faces of Central Otago farmers, reinforced with the news the pest population had been culled by 22,904.

The occasion was the 20th anniversary Great Easter Bunny Hunt, and thousands of people gathered to see the 24-hour hauls collected by the 47 teams.

The Beige Brigade Wolfpack team, from Southland, won the contest, bagging 1664 bunnies on a Luggate farm.

Captain Jason Gerken said the secret of the team's success was that it carried out the hunt like a military operation.

"We kept going for the full 24 hours, with hunters always ready to shoot."

Mr Gerken, a ferret contractor for the Animal Health Board, said the team was made up of "friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends."

It had a good support crew, which included three cooks, ensuring no time was wasted.

The top 10 teams scored their high tallies on Luggate, Lake Hayes, Matakanui, Tarras, Bendigo, Queensberry, and Waikerikeri Valley farmland.

Rabbits were the focus, but pigs, hares, stoats, ferrets, turkeys, pigeons and even a goat featured in the spoils displayed by teams.

The hunt recorded its first injury, with a 54-year-old Chatto Creek man who fell from a truck while shooting at Lake Hayes.

"He broke his ribs, punctured a lung and will be in Kew Hospital for about a week and he phoned me today from his hospital bed to check how his team-mates were going, " event convener Dave Ramsay said.

A spokesman from Animal Welfare group Safe, Hans Kriek, criticised the event yesterday and was reported as saying the hunt did more to incite cruelty than control the pest animals.

"He's entitled to his views, but he's clearly never seen the devastation wrought by rabbits in this area, " Mr Ramsay said.

"We think we're doing something to tackle the rabbit problem and I think the majority of views, especially those of farmers, are in our favour." Demand was so high for the Alexandra Lions-organised event this year that 16 team places had to be balloted.

Fox Gallagher (17), Isaac Boyce (12) and Keegan Blackadder (16), all of Christchurch, were members of the Erabbicator team. Although it only despatched 307 rabbits, 66 hares, two possums and two stoats, the event was still worthwhile "as a fun boys' weekend away", Keegan said.

"It all goes back to the caveman days - that whole hunter-gatherer thing," Tina Dooley, of Oamaru said.

Part of the support crew for Bob's Bunny Busters, she said most of the women in the crew took on the role of "picker-uppers" - "so the menfolk can get on with their hunting thing".

Ravensdown Cunning Dozen captain, Graham Geary, of Mosgiel, said his team tally was 229 rabbits and a couple of turkeys and stoats.

"That's a bit of a disappointment and the block we were shooting, we think that cocky has got any rabbit problem well under control.

"But still, being here is better than being at work and we'll be back next year."

The rabbit corpses in the park were picked up by the Alexandra Scout group, which carries out the task as a fundraiser. The animals are broken down for compost.


Rabbit tallies
Kills from the past 10 hunts:
• 2011: 22,904 (47 teams)
• 2010: 23,064 (39 teams)
• 2009: 14,799 (39 teams)
• 2008: 15,542 (35 teams)
• 2007: 16,121 (31 teams)
• 2006: 12,494 (35 teams)
• 2005: 20,201 (43 teams)
• 2004: 11,546 (33 teams)
• 2003: 9148 (27 teams)
• 2002: 7513 (18 teams)

Total rabbits in 20 years: 243,311


lynda.van.kempen@odt.co.nz

Wow you don't say

If you have a rabbit proof fence, yes you will have to control animals inside the fence until they are removed, but...at least there's a practical reason for doing so. What are you really hoping to achieve by blasting away animals knowing it won't affect the problem? Obviously it's just an excuse to kill and main animals for enjoyment.

[Abridged]

How will fencing control rabbits?

How will rabbit fencing control rabbits? They will still need to be shot.

Celebrating animal cruelty

Until these so called farmers invest in rabbit-proof fences, this is nothing more than a celebration of cruelty to animals. Real men are kind to animals.