A virus is being released in Sunbury as part of a nationwide effort to control feral rabbits.

The release of Calicivirus RHDV1 K5 will be overseen by the Invasive Animals Co-operative Research Centre and the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.

Hume council is also running a pest rabbit program.

The council will distribute baits in known feral rabbit hotspots at Emu Bottom Wetlands from April 9 to 20.

Mayor Geoff Porter said the European rabbit was Australia’s most destructive agricultural pest animal, costing the industry $200 million every year.

“Rabbits are a significant environmental pest, with less than one feral rabbit per hectare being enough to stop the growth of many native species in conservation areas,” Cr Porter said.

“The release of K5 is an important initiative to control the feral rabbit population in Australia.”

The council has been encouraging landowners to conduct their own pest rabbit controls to increase the effectiveness of the nationwide initiative.

It has advised owners of pet rabbits to visit a veterinarian for the calicivirus vaccine to protect their rabbits from the virus.

For more information about the calicivirus, visit pestsmart.org.au