Rabbit-shooting operation for two nights at gardens

Brer rabbit watch out. A sharpshooter wielding a .22 rifle will be roaming the Oamaru Public Gardens from tonight with eyes peeled for pesky bunnies.

Waitaki District Council urban parks officer Mike Kwant said because rabbits had destroyed plants and dug holes at the gardens, rabbit numbers were now a major issue at the 137-year-old gardens.

An estimated population of more than 20 rabbits had caused damage which had resulted in ''ongoing repairs to lawns and plantings, with the cost to replace one bed of bulbs at over $1000'', he said.

Mr Kwant said a council-approved operator had been appointed to use a .22 calibre rifle to reduce the rabbit numbers.

The same method was employed in the last pest control operation in 2011, he said.

''Other methods have previously been attempted but haven't been as successful as this method.

''Bait is not an option, because it poses a danger to people who visit the gardens, especially children.''

He added that although the rabbit population would not be eradicated, reducing numbers would significantly reduce the destruction caused.

''There have always been problems with rabbits at the gardens, however, every so often, the problem escalates to the point where we need to take measures to get the numbers back down to prevent ongoing damage.''

Police had been notified of the pest-control operation and a public notice issued through local newspapers stated that the Oamaru Public Gardens would be closed to the public from 7pm to 9pm today and tomorrow .

To ensure public safety during the operation, the area would be cleared, all entrances taped off and signs erected at each entrance warning people not to enter.

andrew.ashton@odt.co.nz

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