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Rabbit Picture

 

 

How can these cute and cuddly looking creatures be a pest?

Rabbits have been adored and loved by humans for many years. They are found all over the world and are a common charachter in children's books, television cartoons and we even give plush rabbit toys to our kids. The Easter Bunny and Bugs Bunny are probably the most popular rabbits of all. Could an animal which is so widely loved ever cause a problem? It most certainly can.

In the wild, predatory animals such as the fox, wolf, ferile cat and coyote keep rabbit populations down. In urban areas however, rabbit populations can thrive. Domestic rabbits kept as pets reproduce quickly and owners have been known to release them outdoors, increasing the numbers further.

Rabbits tend to congregate in favorable habitats where there is suitable food and cover. They typically remain in a limited area of 20 acres or less unless their food source is compromised. In urban areas, locations devoid of rabbits rarely stay that way for long since rabbits are usually abundant nearby that will readily move into the site.

Rabbits can damage landscape plants throughout the year. Flowers and vegetables provide food in spring and summer while woody plants are chosen in fall and winter. Rabbits can cause extensive and expensive damage to woody plants by gnawing bark or clipping branches, stems and buds. Although their diet is diverse, they prefer apple trees, barberry, basswood, blackberries, cherry trees, dogwood, honey locust, ironwood, red and sugar maples, mountain ash, nut trees, red and white oaks, plum, rose, black and red raspberries, sumac, and willow. Young trees with smooth, thin bark are favored over more mature trees.
 
Facts About Rabbits

Rabbits are not rodents, they are lagomorphs. A male rabbit is a buck A female rabbit is a doe. A baby rabbit is a kit. A group of rabbits is called a herd and live in a warren. When the doe gives birth her babies are collectively refered to as a litter. The gestation period for a rabbit averages 31 days. Does will pull fur when pregnant to assist in the building of their nest

Bunnies get weaned at about 8 weeks old. A rabbits teeth never stop growing. A rabbit can live as long as 10 years Adult bunnies can weigh between 2 lbs - 20 lbs depending on breed Mothers typically only feed their kits about 5 minutes a day

Rabbit meat is lower in fat, cholesterol and calories than chicken, pork and beef.  Rabbit meat is all white meat.
 
 Rabbit droppings make an excellent garden fertilizer
Rabbits have 28 teeth. A 4 pound rabbit will drink as much water as a 20 pound dog. Bunnies love to chew. Rabbits do not hibernate
 
Rabbits can jump 36 inches and higher.
 
Rabbits can see behind them, but have blind spot in front of their face. Rabbits can start breeding as early as 3-4 months of age
 
Predators can literally scare a rabbit to death.  

 

Tips for controlling Rabbits

Rabbits are active throughout the day or during warmer periods of days during winter. You can identify the presence of rabbits or the damage they cause by their tracks, droppings, and markings. Tracks made by their hind feet are much longer that the forefeet and are placed as pairs ahead of the slightly staggered front feet in the snow or soft earth. Toe prints are indistinct because the toes are well-furred. The tracks of tree squirrels are similar but smaller and often end at the base of trees. Rabbit droppings are pea-sized individual pellets. Gnaw marks of rabbits are irregularly placed on trees and shrubs at a few inches above ground or, occasionally, on exposed roots. Rabbits can remove young bark on woody trunks and stems higher than three feet when deep snow exists. A mark left by a pair of cottontail incisors is about 1/4 to 3/8 inches wide. Tree squirrels leave marks of similar size on the upper surface of low branches of trees. Birds tend to shred plants and leave small pieces of the plants on the ground. Rabbits clip off pencil-sized stems cleanly at a 45� angle while deer leave a jagged, torn edge on stems of this size or larger.

The presence of rabbits does not always result in economic damage to plants. Before using a control program, estimate the expected level of damage and compare the time and costs of control to the value of the plants being protected. Most 2- to 3-foot high shrubs can survive having most of the one and two-year old twigs removed. However, the desirable bud, flower or fruit development may be impaired. The key to effective and economical rabbit control is being able to predict and intercept damage with methods that are commensurate to the predicted loss in value.

A 1-inch mesh fence of poultry netting (chicken wire) works well to protect gardens or perennial flower beds from rabbit damage. Bury the bottom edge of the fence about 4 inches below the ground to prevent rabbits, particularly jackrabbits, from digging under it. The buried portion can be splayed outward from the protected area to better prevent digging. Use a fence two feet high against cottontails and three feet high against jackrabbits. You may need to build the fence higher to exclude rabbits when snow cover is present or predicted. A two-foot high fence made of poultry netting and 3/8-inch fence rods spaced at 3 feet apart can protect a 25- x 50-foot garden space for as little as $50 at 2003 prices ($0.33 per foot). You can extend the life of the chicken wire, welded wire, or hardware cloth fence by taking it down each fall and storing it out of the weather. Plastic poultry netting is now available in neutral colors but it is more expensive than wire mesh.

You may want to exclude rabbits from an entire backyard. Fences are most easily installed as additions to existing structures. Perimeter fences of welded wire mesh of 1-inch x 2-inch or 1-inch (hardware cloth, hail screen) excludes young rabbits, but mesh of 2- x 3-inch or chain link fence does not.

For small flower beds, construct a lightweight frame at the anticipated height of the flower blossoms and shape a plastic mesh netting over it. Colors of plastic mesh are available that blend into the background environment.

Nurseries, tree farms, and other large areas, can be protected with a double-strand electric fence or electrified plastic-net fence. Place electric wires at 3 to 4 inches and at 8 to 12 inches above the ground. To protect individual trees and shrubs, place cylinders of commercial plastics, fabrics, paper, or poultry netting around the trunks supported by stakes. Be sure to recognize when stems grow through the netting and become susceptible to rabbit damage.

Remove materials that provide shelter to rabbits to guard against future damage or while using direct methods of control. Remove brush piles and tall weeds, particularly those located near new windbreaks. Mow or spray to remove vegetation within 3 to 4 feet of recently planted trees and shrubs. Some trees and shrubs may need protection for as long as 10 years before they become resistant to rabbit damage. Conversely, to guard against jackrabbit damage, you should encourage taller and more dense vegetation. We do not recommend supplying alternate foods for rabbits as a method to reduce damage to desired plants. One exception may be for short-term control until other direct methods of control can be used. Alfalfa or clover are good alternate foods for rabbits. Rabbits are selective but will quickly switch to other foods. The availability of alternate foods may attract more rabbits and lead to further damage.

Scarecrows, owl or snake effigies, spinning aluminum pie pans and glass jars of water have been used to frighten rabbits. Commercial water-driven scarecrows with motion detectors are available that spray water when movement occurs near them. In general, frightening devices may be limited in range to a few feet and short-lived in effect as rabbits habituate to them.

Chemical repellents are also short-lived in their effect and those that have offensive tastes need to be reapplied to plants after sprinkler irrigation, rain, or new growth occurs. Small bars of commercial soaps, such as Irish Spring or Dial, are sometimes used as repellents by hanging them from low branches. Odors are dissipated by wind and water and repellents may need to be re-applied.
 
 
Both trapping and shooting can be used to temporarily reduce local populations of rabbits, however you will need to ensure your state regulations allow such methods. Fall reductions of rabbits may reduce winter damage to trees and shrubs.
 
 Trapping is generally not effective for jackrabbits. Havahart traps are available for cottontails, including single-door and double-door styles. Select traps that have a 7-inch minimum clearance door. Rabbits enter traps most easily during winter and early spring when food is scarce. Good cold-weather baits include cabbage, ear corn, dried apple and dried alfalfa or clover. Warm weather baits include carrots, lettuce, apples, and fresh flowers such as pansies or tulips. Replace with fresh baits and check traps daily. During winter, place traps in sheltered areas and cover them with heavy canvas or cloth to guard the captured animal against cold. During summer, place traps in shaded areas and away from menacing dogs and cats.
 
Be sure to check the traps often so these animals do not suffer or to make sure you haven't captured the neighbors cat.

Consider placing boards or 1-foot high fences alongside traps to help funnel rabbits into the traps. Approach a trapped rabbit slowly and quietly to keep the animal from injuring itself. Rabbits should be released safely in areas with suitable habitat and where they are not likely to cause future problems.

Cottontails and jackrabbits are game species in some states. Rabbit hunting with firearms may or may not be allowed during the fall and winter with a state hunting permit. Some states allow the removal of rabbits within municipalities that cause damage to personal property. In most cities and towns, the local animal control or law enforcement agency can authorize live-trapping and transporting of rabbits. Firearms cannot legally be discharged within most municipalities.

In damage situations, stats may grant permission to live-trap and transport rabbits or to shoot rabbits outside of the hunting season. Check with your state or local government for details.
 

 
Please visit our Havahart Cage Traps Category for Humane Rabbit Traps
 
or try a Yard Guard by Bird-X Products
 

 




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