Billy and the Bunny Catchers might sound like a 1970 pop group - they are very much in tune with 2021.
Rabbits are the number one pest in and around Wānaka, and while they breed all year round, now that spring has sprung they are getting especially active again.
While ORC (Otago Regional Council) is responsible for controlling rabbits on council land, private landowners and occupiers are responsible for rabbit control on their properties.
Enter ‘Billy and the Bunny Catchers’. Billy (aka Stephen Barton) began using dogs and ferrets in Wales 35 years ago. In 2015 he moved to Wānaka and today is one of several operators in Central Otago using dogs and ferrets to control rabbits.
He uses a variety of pest control methods - night shooting, poisoning with pindone and magtoxin, trapping, and dogs and ferrets.
“In urban areas, where people are not allowed to shoot and poisoning is dangerous to neighbours’ pets, using dogs and ferrets can be the most effective way to control rabbits,” he says.
Working with a team of dogs, Billy sends his ferrets in to flush out the rabbits. He then uses nets to entangle the rabbits, which allows the dogs to then catch them.
Under Level 4 Lockdown, Billy cannot work, but he is hoping that he will be able to get his dogs and ferrets back on the job soon. In the meantime Wanaka’s rabbits are enjoying a brief reprieve.