Poisoned baits

Newspaper ad for 'Barclay' rabbit baitsWith the rabbits in plague proportions, local councils employed 'Rabbiters' to drive a horse-drawn 'poison cart', laying baits for the rabbits by the side of the roads and near the rivers.

Charlie Ellery recalls: "The poison was a phosphourus - we used to mix it up with bran and pollard and then you'd put it in this big container on the poison cart, push the lid down to put pressure on it. Then you'd drive along and it would squeeze the stuff out of a little tiny hole down the bottom. There was a crank which would cut off bits about 3cm long."

Newspaper ad for 'Scudds' poison distributerFarmers would poison rabbits too, using cyanide or strychnine. The usual method was to free feed the rabbits for two or three nights, using clean oats or wheat laid in a shallow trail which was cut using a single-furrowed plough. The rabbits would become accustomed to being fed, and then after a few nights, the poisoned grain would be layed out. As Bob O'Neill Holmes explains: "The trail was not all poisoned. You'd put fresh oats, then poisoned, then fresh oats. So you sort of kidded them into eating the trail anyway. They were a bit suspicious."

Rabbits killed in one night at Glengarry Station in 1949. Estimated over 200 rabbits.Poisons like strychnine were also a danger to stock, native animals and pets. Farmers would have to ensure that any left-over baits did not remain on the ground, and even the bodies of the poisoned rabbits would be collected.

Farmers also poisoned watering holes where rabbits congregated. Charlie Ellery recalls: "We did one lot of cyanide, on a farm out from Meckering. There was a soak on it and the rabbits used to drink out of it. We poisoned that one night - went back the next morning and there were hundreds of rabbits dead everywhere. The poison doesn't last in the water that long - leave it for a little while and the sheep can drink out of it again."