Easter bunny hunt under way

A sea of camouflage fills Alexandra's Pioneer Park as shooters wait to be allocated blocks of...
A sea of camouflage fills Alexandra's Pioneer Park as shooters wait to be allocated blocks of land for this year's Great Easter Bunny Hunt. Photos: Pam Jones
Members of Greymouth's "East West Bunny Boppers" team get ready for the hunt.
Members of Greymouth's "East West Bunny Boppers" team get ready for the hunt.
A vehicle is fitted out for the hunt with with a shooting frame and spotlight.
A vehicle is fitted out for the hunt with with a shooting frame and spotlight.
Jack observes the proceedings ahead of the hunt.
Jack observes the proceedings ahead of the hunt.

While chocolate eggs and bunnies are being exchanged elsewhere in the country this Easter, Central Otago's rabbits are under attack, as hundreds of shooters head for the hills for the annual Great Easter Bunny Hunt.

It's an all-out war on the rabbits that are a pest throughout the district. Last year about 10,000 rabbits were shot in the 24-hour event, with hunters lining them up in rows for public viewing at the prize-giving on Saturday.

This year 21 teams of 12 have headed out in Mad Max-style vehicles that feature shooting frames, spotlights, old carseats on the back and other embellishments. One vehicle had a barbecue on the back, another was towing a caravan for sleeping quarters and another had "gone upmarket" and installed a window wiper that the owner "nicked off his Terrano".

The event is organised by the Alexandra Lions Club and raises about $10,000 for community causes every year.

Organiser Dave Ramsay said team numbers were down slightly this year as fewer blocks of land had been available due to landowner uncertainty about when the K5 virus was being released.

Farmers have their hopes up that the virus - a variant of the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease released in Central Otago in 1997 - will help cull rabbit numbers in the district, which are as bad as they have ever been in some areas.

As well as rabbits, hunters usually bring back dozens of other pests shot during the Great Easter Bunny Hunt, such as possums, ferrets, stoats and hares.

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