LARGE numbers of rabbits causing chaos on the grounds of the Old Dubbo Cemetery are to be dealt with by Dubbo City Council in an effort to control growing numbers.
Council and the Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA) have joined forces to wipe out the rabbits, with poisoning to start tomorrow.
Because of safety concerns the cemetery would be restricted between 5pm and 10am for over a week.
Council's Director Community Services David Dwyer said in the past a variety of methods had been used to control the population, including fumigation where a "bath bomb-like ball" was fed into burrows to emit a toxic gas.
Mr Dwyer said while the method worked in warrens, it was ineffective for the rabbits above ground, who continued to return and breed.
From tomorrow the LHPA would use a pindone poisoning program.
Poisoned carrots would be placed around the cemetery grounds for the rabbits.
"The rabbits will pick the carrots up and take them back to their warrens," Mr Dwyer said.
The gates would be closed by 5pm and the baits would be laid. The following morning council contractors would return and pick up any remaining carrots on the grounds.
Any carcasses, or near-dead rabbits, would be bagged.
A council worker who dealtwith cleaning up roadkill would collect the bags daily and take them to the tip for disposal.
Mr Dwyer said council advised residents -including those in the immediate vicinity via a letterbox drop - to try and keep their pets indoors during baiting hours.
"If any cats or dogs roam and get in through the bars of the cemetery fence, they could be jeopardised," he said.
"We've alerted all the vets in the city and if anyone presents with symptoms triggered by the poison, they will be treated with a vitamin K injection."
He said the poison mades the animals bleed internally, and if residents' pets were affected to take their animals to the vet for treatment strazight away.
"It's not as though it's fatal within two minutes of touching it, if residents see their pets are sick or lethargic and live near the cemetery, get them to the vet immediately," he said.
Considered feral animals, Mr Dwyer said council as landholders, needed to be responsible for controlling their rabbit population, as were all landholders in the region.
"They are an introduced species and a nuisance, that's why we are attempting to get rid of them," he said.
"It's three-pronged, if they start digging around graves, people visiting the cemetery could fall in a hole, plus they are starting to undermine graves which could shift the foundations and cause headstones to topple, and then there is the aspect of coming to visit a loved one and having rabbits running out from holes underneath graves - it's distressing."
Council had engaged the Central West Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA) to implement the program at the Myall Street cemetery from tomorrow until Sunday, January 27.
For more information contact Dubbo City Council's Customer Service Centre on 6801 4000 or visit dubbo.nsw.gov.au.