Integrated hare control
In Victoria European hares (Lepus europaeus) are declared as established pest animals under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994.
Under the Act, all landowners have a responsibility to prevent the spread of, and as far as possible eradicate, established pest animals from their land.
Hares have been pests in Australia since they were released near Westernport Bay in 1862. They are a significant agricultural pest when their numbers reach high densities.
Hares often cause browsing damage to tree plantings and vineyards.
Managing hares on your property
Be aware native wildlife may share the same habitat as hares. Ensure your hare control program that doesn't adversely affect native wildlife.
If you are planning to use dogs for pest animal control, be mindful that there are specific requirements for the use of dogs for hunting. Under Section 28 of the Domestic Animals Act 1994, a person must not set or urge a dog to attack, bite, rush at or chase any animal except when hunting in accordance with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (POCTA).
Planning your program
Planning can maximise the effectiveness of hare control while minimising damage to other animals. Consider hare density, distribution and the habitat in which the hares are living as this will determine what actions are appropriate. The following steps will help in planning.
Coordinate control work with your neighbours. The best results are achieved where neighbours conduct simultaneous hare control across a landscape or district rather than just on individual properties. Work on your property can be undermined by the inactivity of your neighbours. Talk to your neighbours and local Landcare group and work out a plan for coordinated action.
Use all the tools
It's rare that any single technique will provide effective long-term control. Programs should be planned in advance and wherever possible include a variety of techniques such as harbour removal, shooting and fencing.
Evaluate your success
Conduct a second round of monitoring after your control program.
- Have you observed hares?
- Are you still experiencing damage caused by hares?
- Is the impact of hares above or below acceptable thresholds?
- What is working well? What could be improved?
- Do you need to change your plan? Have you managed all the risks?
Continue monitoring on an ongoing basis. Act when you see signs of hare activity. Hare control must be ongoing to minimise re-infestation.
There are no current biological control agents the control of hares in Australia. However, a form of the calicivirus 'RHDV2' that is now present in Australia has been confirmed to kill hares.
European Brown Hare Syndrome is a virus specific to hares that is closely related to rabbit haemorrhagic disease (calici virus). This virus currently affects hare populations but has not been detected in Australia.
Above-ground harbour removal
Hare survival is aided where they have ready access to safe haven or shelter. Such harbour may be:
- heaps of rubbish or debris
- patches of woody weeds
- tall grasses and reeds
- shelter belts or rocks.
Trim under all hedges and thickets of scrub to remove low branches and destroy possible harbour. Keep pastures well grazed.
Remove prickly and woody weeds (such as gorse, boxthorn and blackberries), rubbish piles and old machinery. Fence off rock piles, building materials, hay bales and woodpiles or store them in a manner that does not create a hiding place for hares.
Remember fallen timber may provide harbour for rabbits and habitat for native wildlife. If you are planning to remove fallen timber you must ensure that you do not affect native wildlife.
This involves constructing a fence around hare sensitive areas on your property such as:
- revegetation sites
Ask for 'rabbit proof fencing' when making inquiries.
A minimum of 17cm of the fencing wire netting is buried in the ground, or the lower section of the wire netting is angled to lie on the ground facing in the direction of possible hare entry. The wire must be held down securely with pegs, rocks or timber. The remainder of the mesh must be securely fixed to a suitable support fence so that it reaches a minimum of 88cm above ground.
Hare-proof fencing is expensive. It requires regular maintenance to ensure there are no gaps. With proper maintenance fences should last up to 20 years.
A consequence of such fences is that the movement of some native animals may be limited.
- Use standard rabbit netting that is 105cm width 4cm mesh diameter × 1.4mm wire diameter.
- Make sure support fence is able to withstand stock or native animal forces.
- Rabbit netting is fixed so that it reaches at least 88cm above the ground.
- Where netting is buried, it is buried to a minimum of 170mm.
- Where netting is bent to lay on the ground surface, it must be held down with pegs, rocks or timber.
- There should be suitable rabbit-proof gates at all breaks in the fence.
General support fencing needs
Use sturdy posts driven at least 45cm into the ground (either rammed, or dug in).
Spacing between posts and star pickets should be determined by soil type, topography and required strength of the fence.
It is best to have fences erected by experienced or professional fencers.
Exclusion fences will help to reduce damage to sensitive areas by deterring hares but hares have been known to occasionally climb fences.
Shooting is a target-specific and humane form of hare control. Night time shooting of hares with the aid of a spotlight is the most effective. It is labour intensive but is an effective management tool when implemented as part of an integrated pest management program.
Due to the highly mobile nature of hares, shooting will be most effective when implemented at the landscape scale in coordination with neighbouring land holders.
The use of firearms to control hares must conform to relevant firearm legislation and be integrated with other control methods.
There are a number of commercial chemical repellents available. Chemical repellents are designed to reduce herbivore grazing by imitating the smell of a predator or making the plant unpalatable. The repellents are placed on plant surface or around the base of plants. Repellents are designed to give short-term protection during critical stages of growth.
Consult your local horticulturalist and check the product label to ensure that a repellent is suitable for your intended use.
Other management techniques
Tree guards are essential when planting in hare-prone areas. Generally larger and stronger tree guards will provide the best protection to young plants. It may be more cost effective when planting large areas to hare-proof fence the whole site and remove all hares inside the fenced area prior to planting.
Hares have a habit of grazing along a line of trees, crops or fence lines. When conducting planting activities you may wish to stagger your rows and leave regular gaps along rows. This pattern of planting can deter a hare from grazing along the whole length of the revegetation area by interrupting its preferred feeding habits.
Trapping is not a cost effective hare control technique as it is labour intensive and hares can re-invade from surrounding areas.
Any trapping of hares must be carried out in accordance with the requirements of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (POCTA) and associated regulations.
Trapping has several animal welfare implications and anyone considering trapping should read important further information about traps.