RESIDENTS and landowners will learn how to rabbit proof homes and protect rare and endangered plants at the Rabbit Free Phillip Island field day on Sunday, July 18 at Surf Beach.

Gayle Seddon, coordinator of Surf Beach Sunderland Bay Coastcare Group, said: “We are providing a free warren fumigation service and fence wire to help Surf Beach and Sunderland Bay residents rabbit proof their homes.”

“Residents will also be able to see the rabbit exclusion zones we’ve set up on the reserve to see how the native vegetation restores itself and discuss plans for a rabbit proof fence to further protect the area.

“We hope locals will join us in the quest for a Rabbit Free Phillip Island. Rabbit proofing homes is a first line of defence against rabbits that are ravaging Surf Beach Nature Reserve.

“The reserve used to be blanketed with beautiful pink Grass Trigger plants and crimson Running Postman, but they have been targeted by rabbits to the point of elimination. If nothing is done, these species are likely to become locally extinct.”

Since their introduction to Phillip Island in the late 1850s, rabbits have increased to almost plague proportions along the coast, taking advantage of removal of foxes and lush green lawns and shelter under houses and sheds, which have replaced native grassland.

Rabbits dig, eat seedlings and other small plants, nutrify soils which benefits weeds, ringbark shrubs and contribute to erosion and the spread of weeds. Weed control, restoration and revegetation efforts are ineffective while rabbits continue to flourish.

Surf Beach Sunderland Bay Coastcare Group ran a RabbitScan online citizen science training session recently so locals could learn how to map and monitor rabbits under and around their homes.

Surf Beach Sunderland Bay Coastcare Group is working in partnership with Phillip Island Landcare as part of the winter 2021 Phillip Island Coastcare Blitz education and planting days funded by Coastcare Victoria.

Surf Beach Sunderland Bay Coastcare Group also holds monthly working bees with Phillip Island Nature Parks to restore land eroded by rabbits.

“We hope to inspire, engage, educate and facilitate community action for a rabbit-free Phillip Island,” Gayle said.

The field day is free but residents should register by emailing julyblitzpi@gmail.com.

Further details can be found at Surf Beach Sunderland Bay Coastcare Group and phillipislandlandcare.org.au.