Brown and black rabbits sit on grass on the side of a busy highway.

‘Rabbit Island’ in Burnie delights drivers on the Tasmanian highway

There’s nothing special about the Traffic Islands, but a plot of land on the side of a highway in Tasmania changes that.

Known to the locals as “Rabbit Island,” a pack of hares roam the middle strip on Bass Highway in Burnie’s home, and they’ve gained admirers from those who drive.

Its location has created a safe haven for rabbits away from predators, allowing them to thrive, according to Professor Mina Jones from the University of Tasmania’s School of Biological Sciences.

“It’s obviously unique in that it’s on such a small piece of land, surrounded by such a busy highway, so it’s become the focus of drivers,” she said.

“The rabbits are obviously not worried about predators because they are out during the day.”

The island’s population consists of a mix of brown and black rabbits, something we haven’t seen often.

The middle sector in which rabbits live is controlled by the state government.(ABC News: Monty Bofill)

Prof. Jones said: “Blacks can, in more recent times, be derived from the local population. In these kinds of situations, they can survive quite well.”

“However, in the Midlands, for example, if you put a domestic hare there, it stands out, and sooner or later a wedge-tailed eagle or a Tasmanian devil will get it.”

The grass on the medium strip, as well as the cover in the form of shrubs and trees, made it an “ideal” spot for rabbits, she said.

Raising like rabbits

Rabbits have one of the fastest reproductive rates of any mammal on Earth, and Professor Jones said the population in Burnie will be breeding “all the time”.

“They will probably mate but the island will have stamina – that’s the maximum number of rabbits they can support,” she said.

“If the numbers go higher than that, the youngsters will be more dispersed and the mortality will increase – they will starve.”

Wooden sign that says Rabbit Island
The “Rabbit Island” sign placed on the side of Bass Highway delighted the locals.(ABC News: Monty Bofill)

She said some little rabbits would rush across the highway, probably in the quiet hours of the early morning, looking for a new home.

“There is not enough space for all of them to stay there,” she said.

“Rabbits are really adaptable and are very capable of living in urban areas.”

The population is not in danger

Although rabbits have been described as a “major agricultural, environmental and economic pest” in Australia, Professor Jones said that Burnie rabbits do no harm.

“In that case, if people could see it and spend their day driving and seeing these live wild animals, I think that’s pretty cool,” she said.

Rabbits are sitting on the grass on the side of the road
A large number of rabbits inhabit Muroor Island in the Tasmanian town of Burnie.(ABC News: Monty Bofill)

It appears that rabbits are not only largely safe from natural predators, but also from human interference.

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