Hawke's Bay Regional Council's biosecurity team has released the new strain of rabbit calicivirus.

The RHD K5 strain was approved for release by Ministry for Primary Industries in late March, and the Hawke's Bay release was during the week of April 23.

"Fortunately the weather was perfect for hand-laying the carrot bait across 32 sites across Hawke's Bay," says Campbell Leckie, Biosecurity Manager.

The release was at 32 sites which were "carefully chosen" to enable a 20km range between each site to help the virus to spread. The sites are a mix of well-known rabbit infested sites, plus properties where owners were willing to help with the release.

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The virus is spread mainly by flies and one-on-one contact by rabbits.

"It's not known how long the virus will take effect, but colder winter weather should assist," Leckie said.

He said the weather played a big role in the effectiveness of the virus, especially with severe temperature shifts from hot to cold, along with rain. Those factors could heavily impact the rabbit population.

"The existing RHD strain is still active in the environment, and it is hoped that the K5 strain will remove a larger part of the rabbit population."

TIPS FOR LANDOWNERS

* Leave carcasses where they are to allow flies to further spread the virus.
* Do your rabbit shooting over winter, rather than leaving it until spring. Winter is the most effective time. Spring is the most active breeding period and shooting encourages rabbits to keep numbers up. Any rabbits alive over winter may be resistant to the strain, so removing them will help reduce the population.