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Serious rabbit concerns.

 
pollinator
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We have been in this property for 15 years, and having had at most one or two bunnies, this spring we have huge numbers. Evidence of droppings everywhere, I’ve counted 8 separate active burrows on our 3 acres, and they are eating everything.

I have seedlings germinating in the green house to plant out in about two weeks and I am certain they won’t last 24 hours if I don’t do something about them now.

My options as I see it:

Shooting - I have an air rifle, but don’t. Have the time to sit out night after night picking off maybe one or two of them. They aren’t out in the daytime.

Trapping - I’ve tried a live cafe trap, with food as bait. They aren’t interested. I’m guessing because there is plenty of easy forage around at the moment.

Snares - I have never used these before, but am seriously considering them. The recommended/legal ones here have a stopper to prevent the. Over tightening, and are free running so they relax when the animal stops struggling. I can see lots of suitable rabbit trails to lay them on. Snares are cheap £30 gets me enough material to make 75 of them! Downsides - I’m concerned about catching other animals (we have a dog, and pheasants all through the garden), and you need to dispatch the rabbits when you catch them. Positives - I can set a lot, quickly, and potentially catch multiple rabbits over night, so it is likely to get results faster than trapping or shooting.

Poison - big no from me. I hate the thought of poison, and the risks of killing other things.

Fencing - we could, potentially, fence them out of the small area of vegetables. But it would be impossible to fence them out of the formal gardens and lawns, or secure the overall property line.

Any thoughts or suggestions for me? I’m learning toward snares and rabbit stew.
 
pollinator
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Rabbit stew - yes!

You could also look into training the dog to be your own rabbit hunter, or get another dog you can train to do it - the dog has all the time in the world to hunt while you're repairing the damage.  

Third Thought - Owl boxes in you trees to encourage them to nest and hunt on your property.
 
pollinator
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During the new moon, rabbits will be out more in daylight hours, as it's too dark to be out safely at night.  They stay close to home and chew their stores of dry pellets for supplemental nutrition in the dark nights.  In the full moon, they're out more actively at night foraging, this is when they store their pellets for the new moon phase.

That's relevant to knowing when they'll likely be out and about.  

Trapping even the wildest rabbits can be made easy with the right bait.  I just bait the traps with starchy, carby grains (think chicken feed or feed grains).  I generally only trap my own rabbits when they escape, but I have caught the spry, wily local mountain rabbits many times while trying to catch my domestic ones.  Placement of traps is huge too.  Make the trap safe to enter; like wedge it between two hay bales and put something on top, so the rabbit doesn't feel exposed, and is also 'guided' into the trap.  You find the right bait and the right placement and you'll catch em pretty quick I reckon

Cats.  Cats area also really good at destroying rabbit populations.

I feel like, if it were me, I'd rather live trap than 'go hunting'.  Trapping would take way less time and can be done at your leisure.  Shooting them requires knowing where they are and when, and not missing them.  You miss a shot and they'll know what it means the next time they see, hear, or smell you and the gun!  It won't be easy two times in a row!

Edit; let me elaborate that you should pick a bait that doesn't reflect their wild foods available.  This is why I go for high-calorie grains.  Yams, carrots, and kale won't entice a wild bunny much.  You can turn them on to the grains by feeding ("oops, I spilled some grain, whatever shall I do") them in a predictable place.  Once they know that this amazing new food always shows up there you can set one or more traps.  Multiple traps sometimes works even better.  A rabbit in a trap is often just sitting there biding its time.  Another rabbit sees it and says "Oh, I wasn't too sure about this metal thing with food in it, but that guy seems to be okay, so I'll keep him company and eat the tasty food too".  I often set multiple live traps at a time, makes it easier to trap lots of rogue buns in a short amount of time.

Edit edit:  Snares may work, but a rabbit will not act like a predator when it gets snared.  It will likely scream bloody murder and have a heart attack because something has it by the throat.  It will not be pleasant.  Predators who get snared tend to fight momentarily, then relax and hold still.  They don't often kill themselves on a snare line like prey animals do.  If you're snaring for rabbits, you shouldn't need to worry about catching a dog as the rabbit snares should be placed and sized accordingly.  Unless your dog is rabbit sized I suppose....

I'd also say that fencing isn't a very viable option.  Rabbits are houdinis with fencing.  Unless you fence 4-5 feet tall with 1" wire and add 2 feet of ground wire (like an upside-down "T" or and "L") so the fence meets a layer of wire on the ground that prevents digging under  A savvy rabbit can jump several feet in the air AND slide right through a 4" hole in the same motion.  Tight, thorough fencing is needed to keep them out.  And even if you did that, every doe out there is producing 6-12 babies every 30 days.  So unless a predator moves in or they starve themselves out, they're gonna keep reproducing!
 
master pollinator
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+1 on rabbit stew. In practical terms, if there are no natural controls, or these are feral bunnies, the only thing that will stop them is starvation or disease.

Another option: low voltage electric fence at nose height. These are available commercially for dog/cat/rabbit deterrence. Not nearly as terrifying as the mondo fencers that electrify 12 miles of cattle fence.
 
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ive got serious rabbit pressure, I'm putting up chicken wire fence around the garden. two years ago I had a tiny garden, about 10'x12', had to replant everything 3 times and shot at least 4 rabbits before squash and beans would grow.
 
pollinator
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We have basically the same scenario - about 2.85 acres of zone 1 gardens close to the house, an orchard further away, a staple garden and a good forest - all of which have suffered in years past from the rabbits.

Here is what we did.

Fence what could be fenced.
Shot what could be shot. (This one hurts my heart, but has to be done in the early spring to stop them having kits and drowning our property in more rabbits. Tonight is a full moon, so I will be out with the air rifle and tissues. I haven't seen too many so far this spring, so here's hoping I wind up empty handed!!)
Set up owl boxes and watched the owl population explode on our property.
Got a barn cat who is no joke about rabbit/rat/mouse/mole eradication. She is a stone cold killa'. I've seen her come mincing out of our woods lot's of times with baby rabbits in her mouth. That hurts my heart, too, and I gotta buckle down and stay frosty. (Because if I don't, I'll go running after the cat to nurse that wild, marauding rabbit back to health. Because there is zero logic there.)
Wrapped all of our fruit bearing tree trunks with either tin foil or hardware cloth or netting (because rabbits like to strip the bark and it has killed some of my trees.)
I've also taken to having my pug/french bulldog mix come walk the perimeter with me about once or twice a week and pee all over everything. She is an absolute nutcase for anything living in a hole and will dig, snuff, pee and generally make the rabbit warrens her playground while I'm weeding beds and spreading mulch. (Obvious drawback of a bath after, but small price to pay!)
I have planted lot's of forage for them in the greenbelts that outline our property, with the thinking that if I can feed them enough closer to where they live, they won't want to hunt down my radish's poking 3 inches out of the soil. Red russian kale and groundhog daikon radish make up the most of it, but I've scattered buckwheat, rye grass, clover, and certain types of early broccolit that bolts too quickly in our climate, but makes lot's of seeds and self sows readily. Right about now everything is starting to really fill in and aside from the greenery looking nice from the front porch as I scan the farm, it gives them something to eat on.
And we got muscovy ducks, which just range all over the farm being big and clumsy and oafish - but it seems to be working on rabbits and slugs/snails, so I don't complain.

I have found that meeting rabbit pressure with my own buckshot approach has greatly reduced the amount of damage they do. It doesn't solve the whole thing, but really gives me and my veggies a fighting chance. And I didn't realize all I was doing until I just made this list. I'm exhausted just looking at it.

Good luck!


 
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Lindsey Jane wrote:We have basically the same scenario - about 2.85 acres of zone 1 gardens close to the house, an orchard further away, a staple garden and a good forest - all of which have suffered in years past from the rabbits.

Here is what we did.

Fence what could be fenced.
Shot what could be shot. (This one hurts my heart, but has to be done in the early spring to stop them having kits and drowning our property in more rabbits. Tonight is a full moon, so I will be out with the air rifle and tissues. I haven't seen too many so far this spring, so here's hoping I wind up empty handed!!)
Set up owl boxes and watched the owl population explode on our property.
Got a barn cat who is no joke about rabbit/rat/mouse/mole eradication. She is a stone cold killa'. I've seen her come mincing out of our woods lot's of times with baby rabbits in her mouth. That hurts my heart, too, and I gotta buckle down and stay frosty. (Because if I don't, I'll go running after the cat to nurse that wild, marauding rabbit back to health. Because there is zero logic there.)
Wrapped all of our fruit bearing tree trunks with either tin foil or hardware cloth or netting (because rabbits like to strip the bark and it has killed some of my trees.)
I've also taken to having my pug/french bulldog mix come walk the perimeter with me about once or twice a week and pee all over everything. She is an absolute nutcase for anything living in a hole and will dig, snuff, pee and generally make the rabbit warrens her playground while I'm weeding beds and spreading mulch. (Obvious drawback of a bath after, but small price to pay!)
I have planted lot's of forage for them in the greenbelts that outline our property, with the thinking that if I can feed them enough closer to where they live, they won't want to hunt down my radish's poking 3 inches out of the soil. Red russian kale and groundhog daikon radish make up the most of it, but I've scattered buckwheat, rye grass, clover, and certain types of early broccolit that bolts too quickly in our climate, but makes lot's of seeds and self sows readily. Right about now everything is starting to really fill in and aside from the greenery looking nice from the front porch as I scan the farm, it gives them something to eat on.
And we got muscovy ducks, which just range all over the farm being big and clumsy and oafish - but it seems to be working on rabbits and slugs/snails, so I don't complain.

I have found that meeting rabbit pressure with my own buckshot approach has greatly reduced the amount of damage they do. It doesn't solve the whole thing, but really gives me and my veggies a fighting chance. And I didn't realize all I was doing until I just made this list. I'm exhausted just looking at it.

Good luck!




An interesting array of strategies here; out of interest, how are the ducks contributing to keeping rabbits out? Just by being around? Have they not attracted other predators? How does the dog like them roaming around?!
 
master steward
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Mj said, "An interesting array of strategies here; out of interest, how are the ducks contributing to keeping rabbits out? Just by being around? Have they not attracted other predators? How does the dog like them roaming around?!



I am teaching our dog not to chase rabbits.

My suggestion is to get a bird feeder.

Our rabbits spend hours upon hours eating what falls out of the feeder onto the ground.  

Squirrels like the feeder, too.  I am teaching the dog not to chase squirrels, too.
 
pollinator
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I wonder if the blinking red lights I used to keep bears out of the chicken coop would work against rabbits? The brand I bought was from Nite Guard, but I see that there are other companies selling them now as well. They are solar-powered and blink red lights to look like there is already a predator there. They were $20 for two when bought them, but that was years ago. You'd have to mount them to a stake. Perhaps place a few around your gardens. They won't blink during the day so they're not intrusive.
 
pollinator
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The thread title had me going for a moment, wondering if the situation was similar to the story of encounters with Serious Dogs chronicled by Steve Martin in his Cruel Shoes book.

Excerpt:

I had always thought dogs to be playful and spirited; to me they were animals who loved to chase sticks and romp around and lick you. That is, I used to think that, until that day I met the serious dogs. When I first saw the serious dogs, they were sitting on a small hill out to the side of my house watching the sunset. One dog was standing on his hind legs, leaning his elbow on a tree, lost in melancholy thought. They all watched this particularly glorious sunset, then each sighed in turn and strolled in a pack over the hill. Were these the dogs I had thrown bones to for the last several months? These day-dreamers?


 
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Obviously this wouldn’t work for everyone, as this pertains to jack rabbits and big acreage.

We just sort of fell into a solution (quite by accident and sort of on our silly heads) With regard to keeping the jackrabbit population in check. We have coyotes and bobcats on our 300+ acres and a lot of the acreage is just left wild. Found out the jackrabbits limited nicely, to the point of being quite limited, by the coyotes and bobcats. It’s sort of a check and balance.

It became easier to fence in our chickens and give them a good secure chicken house at night, than it was to fence in the veggie garden.

We also have two large dogs who function as heard guardian dogs so they’re not able to roam around the front or back of our house but they’re barking and the smell of their urine seems to discourage the bobcats and coyotes from drawing very near the property around the house. I’ve got four chickens, older hens who don’t run that fast, in the backyard and so far (knock on wood Dash lol) no predators have bothered them. They roost nightly in what I jokingly refer to as “Malibu Barbies First Chickenhouse” at night. I just leave the door to that thing open. So far so good. The chicken house is one of those gizmos that is manufactured in China and you buy it in a box and put it together at home. You can’t get more than three or four decent size chickens squeezed into that thing with all the good will in the world though! Hence it’s name.

Our 300 plus acres back up to unpopulated wilderness clear to the Sierra Nevada mountains, so there are fresh supplies of predatirs drifting in periodically to eat the rats, mice, squirrels, jack rabbits, quail wild turkeys and anything else that likes to consume grain or garden produce. Again: the two dogs (Akbash and rough coated Collie) have warned off the predators in about a 2 acre around the house.

The only thing that gets through with impunity are the skunks, if I don’t put out minced garlic. Planting the stuff is said to deter them similarly but I haven’t tried that. Now, how on earth can something which puts out such a ripe and lasting odor possibly object to the smell of garlic-lol??
 
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You could offer a chance to local falconers to hunt the land for rabbits. Contact your state falconry Association/club. It would be an opportunity for natural depridation on your land, and perhaps a chance to see birds of prey Up close and in person.
 
pollinator
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Since overseeding my grass areas with clover,  the rabbits almost never touch my veggie beds or other herbaceous plants.  I also mow at the highest setting on my mower,  I think it's 7"?

I'm in an urbanish area but rabbits abound.  It's not uncommon to see 3-4 in every front yard driving down the street in the morning,  at least where there are no dogs.   We do have a healthy bird of prey population which probably helps.   Neighbors photograph fox often, and a coyote now and then.

I fenced in a few beds when I first started gardening, but with so little damage,  as the garden expands I haven't bothered.  

I DO have dogs,  they do go out with me a lot when I'm home during the day, but they are indoors all night and when I'm at work, and still the rabbits don't go for the plants I intended for me.  

That's my two cents for whatever it's worth.  
 
Josephine Howland
pollinator
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We also have to be aware that we have some endangered New England Cottontail Rabbits on our property. I haven't seen anything but hares, but a neighbor said that there is a particular stand of something in my back forest that is home to many of them. He wants to make sure the area is protected. We have 13 acres, mostly forest, and don't plan on doing anything out there. It was nice of him to let me know. He owns and lives just over the border to our town, but just bought the 17 acres that go from his land into my town and up to my property line.
 
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I wonder if a pet that would go down the holes would help.
Like a ferret.
 
pollinator
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Lindsey Jane wrote:And we got muscovy ducks, which just range all over the farm being big and clumsy and oafish - but it seems to be working on rabbits and slugs/snails, so I don't complain.



I am very curious about this, as I plan to run muscovy ducks some day.  Are you suggesting that they will hunt the rabbits?

Someone else already asked about this, but didn't receive an answer.  Please, enquiring minds want to know! : )
 
Matthew Nistico
pollinator
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@Michael Cox - A question for the OP, have you considered hiring a rabbit exterminator?

I hear that these guys are real pros, and they do work in your area:

 
Michael Cox
pollinator
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We have twice had a very effective rabbit exterminator in, with his dogs and ferrets. They did a good job at a time when we had substantial ongoing damage. They also helped our neighbours. However, the overall rabbit population in or area is large. They quickly repopulated by moving in from outside our property. There is no way we can make the whole property secure from them, so repeatedly paying for exterminators is futile.

Since posting this originally I have built a rabbit proof fence around the veggies which has helped in that area.

Our latest plan is to adopt a feral/barn cat to live outdoors.
 
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I put human hair from the local salon and the hair from shaving my dogs around my beds and it seems to deter the bunnies pretty well. They walk right up to the house without fear so something’s working to keep them out of my newly planted beds.  It also worked to discourage something about the size of a small cat that was creating shallow burrows in the beds in my greenhouse.
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