The long term benefits of rabbit control are likely to outweigh the short term costs for native species affected by ‘prey-switching’, is the conclusion of a recent New Zealand study.
The research examined the effects of rabbit control on ferrets (an invasive predator) and alternative prey species. It found that after rabbits were controlled, ferret numbers fell but their per-capita consumption of lizards and invertebrates increased. Overall, there was increased predation of lizards, but less of invertebrates, for up to 18 months after rabbit control.
However, over time, prey-switching by ferrets reduced and native vegetation regenerated. The researchers concluded that, in the longer term, rabbit control programs are likely to reduce the exposure of native prey to predation – further underlining the net value of rabbit control.
For more information, see the article by Cliff H.B. et.al. in Biological Invasions (2020).