BROUGHTON Island has been declared rabbit-free.
An eradication program has wiped out more than 1000 wild rabbits on the nature reserve, ending a tenure spanning almost a century.
In the final stage of the National Parks and Wildlife Service program yesterday, hunting dogs were let loose on the 114-hectare nature reserve off Port Stephens.
Springer spaniels Katie and Joker failed to flush out any remaining feral animals signalling the $60,000 program's success.
"The dogs are telling us very clearly that there is nothing out here," professional trainer Steve Austin said.
About 5000 rats were also wiped out in what was part of a long-term Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water island sanctuaries program to eradicate vertebrate pests from NSW offshore islands to restore seabird habitat.
It involved two years' planning, a calicivirus release in April, and two aerial-baiting programs on Broughton Island, neighbouring Little Broughton Island and storm petrel nature reserves in August.
Broughton Island ranger Susanne Callaghan said the landscape was already starting to recover and regenerate.
Rangers hope the rat-free environment will lead to the white-faced storm petrel's return. It stopped nesting on the island because rats preyed on eggs and young.
To avoid reintroducing ferals to the island, rangers have warned visitors to ensure their gear and boats are pest-free.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service will monitor the island.