Rabbits find most of their favorite foods in the vegetable garden. These include broccoli, beans, beet tops, carrots, lettuce and peas. They will also munch tulip shoots in the spring, and chew the bark, buds and stems of woody plants.
One sure sign that rabbits have invaded your garden is fecal droppings or pellets scattered over an area that shows signs of damage. The pellets are coarse and circular, 1/4 - 1/2 inch in diameter. A rabbit's incisors make a characteristic 45 degree cut when clipping off twigs and stems. The cuts are clean and close to the ground.
Methods of Control
Use chicken wire with a 1-inch mesh or smaller. Bury the bottom of the fence 2-6 inches.
A cylindrical enclosure 1-1/2 to 2 feet high around trees and plants provides good protection. Use 1/4 inch hardware cloth and bury the bottom of the enclosure 2 to 3 inches below the soil surface. Allow 1 to 2 feet between the plant and the barrier.
A variety of commercial repellent are available, and success with these products varies. Make sure you choose a product that is safe to use around children and pets. Black pepper and bone meal sprinkled around the rabbits favorite foods will sometimes encourage them to dine elsewhere. Repellents should be applied at twilight since rabbits prefer to eat after dark.
Trapping may be an alternative if the number of rabbits is small and you are persistent, but there are many drawbacks to trapping rabbits. Consider these factors before making your decision:
- Rabbits tend to injure themselves when trapped.
- Rabbits should be handled carefully because they carry serious diseases that can be transmitted to humans.
- Consider what you plan to do with the animals you trap. In many areas, it is illegal to release trapped rabbits where they may become someone else's agricultural pest.
If you decide to give trapping a try, place the trap near a shaded resting place. Use their favorite veggies as bait, and place the bait near the back of the trap. Check your trap daily.
This method of control is especially effective in suburban areas where alternatives are limited. When you remove a rabbit's hiding cover, he has no choice but to move on. This includes removing vegetation along fence lines, ditch banks and brushy areas. Keep in mind that this may also effect the songbird population.
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