Shooters using thermal imaging equipment killed more than 100 rabbits during two nights at Taihape Cemetery, Garry Reid says.

Reid owns Stratford-based Wild Animal Control which was hired to reduce the number of rabbits, which had been multiplying and burrowing under gravestones at the cemetery.

Shooters got 79 rabbits on the first night, January 17. By the second night most of the adults were gone. The young ones were less wary and could be approached more closely.

"There were little ones bouncing about all over the place," Reid said.


The shooters got 36 that night.

They also had fumigation equipment - a gas for use in burrows after the entrances were blocked. They only tested it twice because it was difficult to know which burrows were occupied.

The rabbit cull was a sensitive operation, Reid said, with shooting done near houses, historic gravestones and passing traffic. Neighbours were warned in advance.

Wild Animal Control also had to notify the New Zealand Police communications centre before starting shooting and after finishing each night. The "event" was given a number, and cancelled when shooting finished.

Rabbit numbers are down, but they may need culling again.

The next Rangitīkei job for Wild Animal Control will be to revisit Marton's water reservoir dams, to remove sambar deer before more planting there.

So far four deer have been shot with heavy calibre rifles, and neighbours contacted first. There are more to target, Reid has been told.

Sambar are big heavy animals, and a hazard to road users as well as to native plantings.


"You hear horror stories, about them stopping trains and milk tankers," Reid said.