War on the bunny in 1880s Murray Bridge

In the mid 1800s the bunny created havoc everywhere in the state.

Millions of bunnies had taken over and were eating farmers’ crops down to the stalks, including the fallen grain on the ground.

Who would have thought that the bunny would cross the bridge?

The bridge was completed and bunny used it.

On March 14, 1885 the Surveyor-General wrote, “It is my intention to erect gates with rabbit-proof fencing on the eastern entrance to the Murray Bridge to prevent rabbits crossing.”

A request was made to the district council to assist in the prevention of the vandalising of theses gates.

November of that year it was reported the gates were effective, but by 1890s the bunny was crossing the bridge in large numbers.

Arsenic was offered to the settlers over a week and everyone was to poison to enable mass destruction.

It had been noted prior to this Mr Edwards was offering arsenic for sale at four pence per pound, which he denied.

Imagine the area as it looked then: tussocks had to be grubbed out and cleared between the hotel and the police station, the area that is now Bridge Street.

Whatever they tried, it did not solve the problem.

The railways reported rabbits undermining railway structures – they made their home in the limestone crusts, easily burrowing into it but making it hard to be dug out.

Council invested in miles of rabbit-proof fencing and paid out thousands of pounds in the purchase of rabbit scalps.

In 1895 the rabbit was still out of control.

Once again the council offered a mixture of phosphorus, pollard and sugar to be laid out and everyone was do so or be fined.

This succeeded in reducing the birth rate of the bunny.

The bunny still crossed the bridge and probably does so today; over the years the rabbit was poisoned, trapped and shot during spotlighting activities.

Their meat and pelts were sold, creating income for many.

Today trapping is no longer legal; we no longer use our pelts for Akubra hats as the pelts are now imported from overseas.

We do still poison the bunny and yet the bunny survives.

Murray Bridge & District Historical Society – “A Community Saving Our Past”