Do you know Elmer Fudd has chased Bugs Bunny around his garden for 75 years? Times have changed, and an elderly gentleman running through the neighborhood waving a shotgun is no longer appropriate behavior.
Because rabbit problems are so prevalent, I searched university research from around the country to combine recommendations into one package and determine if there’s anything new.
Did you know that every female cottontail is capable of producing 36 rabbits per year from six litters. Luckily, the average cottontail lives less than one year, according to the University of Wisconsin.
Rabbits concentrate in areas having shelter and ample food. Landscaped yards are ideal. That’s why they’re so prevalent in cities and farmsteads.
Rabbits cause damage all four seasons. During spring and summer they consume fresh plants in flower and vegetable gardens. In fall and winter rabbits eagerly switch to tree and shrub twigs and bark.
How to Control Rabbit Damage:
Encourage Predators. Anything communities do to encourage hawks, owls, and foxes will help. Lack of natural predators is a reason in-town rabbits thrive.
Reduce Habitat. Remove brush, firewood stacks, and other materials where rabbits hide. Install wire skirting around open porches, decks, and under sheds that provide safe haven.
Fencing. Although not practical everywhere, a wire fence with one and one-half inch mesh is the most reliable way to exclude rabbits. Two feet high is enough. Taller wire fencing four feet high provides a spot to grow sweet peas, morning glories, and other vines. To prevent rabbits from burrowing below, bury 2 to 6 inches below soil. Wooden fences can be rabbit-proofed by adding wire to gaps. Wire can be circled around young trees and shrubs, especially in winter.
The Best Rabbit Repellent: We’re all awaiting a magical spray that will solve our rabbit problem. Repellent make plants taste bad or create an odor. Results vary widely by location and circumstance. That’s why soap-on-a-rope or mothballs works for some and not others. Other questionable repellents include human hair, fox urine, old shoes, and marigolds. Repellents having better success contain thiram, capsaicin (hot pepper), or dried blood. Very Important: the best repellents tested contain putrid eggs and garlic, like commercially available Liquid Fence in ready-to-use form or concentrate. Because it’s expensive, I’ve researched a successful homemade version. Instead of $40 for 40 ounces of concentrate that make 5 gallons of repellent, the homemade version makes 5 gallons for approximately $6.
The recipe: Break a dozen eggs, minus shells, into a gallon jug. Add two cups of milk, shake, and place in a warm sunny spot for 5-7 days. Empty into a five gallon bucket. Add one container each of inexpensive garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Add one-half cup of Dawn dishwashing soap plus water to make 5 gallons. Mix well and apply with watering can on and around non-food plants. Because it contains raw eggs, apply to areas around food plants instead of onto leaves you‘ll eat. This repellent can be used around the perimeter of flower beds and gardens for control of larger areas. Most repellents must be replenished after heavy rain. I’ve used the name-brand Liquid Fence with very good results. Then I switched to the home-made version and had equally successful results for several years.
Traps. Apples, carrots, and cabbage can lure rabbits into traps. A trap can be considered a beneficial predator to maintain the balance of nature. Before catching and releasing elsewhere, be certain additional rabbits are desired in the new location.
Gadgets. Pie pans, water-filled jars, fake owls, plastic snakes, flashing lights and ultrasonic devices usually work for only a short time.
Rabbit-Proof Plants. What can we plant that rabbits won’t eat? Even plants listed as “safe” have all been consumed if rabbits are hungry enough. Although rabbits have preferences, choosing plants from a non-rabbit list has proven unreliable.
Shooting. Local ordinances vary. For example, city of Fargo ordinance 100304 makes it unlawful to discharge firearms including air rifles, pellet guns, and bb pistols, even for rabbit control.