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Rabbits
RabbitAlmost everyone recognizes rabbits, with their distinctive hopping gait and long ears. They are about 16 inches long and weigh about 2.2 pounds. Cottontails are smaller than jackrabbits and have shorter ears. The species of cottontails differ mostly by color and are difficult or impossible to distinguish in the field, except by habitat and geographic location.

Cottontails mostly live in brushy country. Therefore, they may be affected by habitat disturbance, such as forest clearance, burning, and ornamental plantings. Rabbits eat vegetation, herbaceous and woody, feeding early morning and late afternoon throughout the year. Rabbits usually spend the day in a shallow depression, in the shelter of a thicket.

Reproduction takes place throughout the warmer months, and birth after a gestation period of about four weeks. Females may have two to six litters per year, consisting of four to seven young per litter. The young are born blind and helpless in a shallow depression of grass and the mother's fur. Such high birth rates obviously must be balanced by high death rates or ecosystems would be overwhelmed by cottontails.

Predators
It is important to recognize the role that predation plays in keeping rabbit numbers in balance. Hawks and owls play important roles as avian predators; and coyotes, foxes, raccoons, skunks, and opossums are mammalian species that prey on rabbits.

What to Do if You Have Problems with Rabbits
Residential yards offer an abundance of food for their survival and places for rabbits to hide. Damage is usually the result of feeding activities. Flower and vegetable plants are eaten in the spring and summer and fruit trees and ornamentals in the fall and winter. Damage may be distinguished from that caused by other animals by the cleanly cut plant remains and the presence of nearly spherical pea-sized droppings scattered around the area, or sometimes left in small piles. The easily recognizable tracks of rabbits may also be found in soft soil or snow. Rabbits tend to be active at dusk and dawn.

Solutions
  • Exclusion - The most effective, permanent protection for gardens subject to rabbit damage is a well-constructed fence. Chicken wire supported by posts every six to eight feet is strong enough to exclude rabbits. Such fences normally need to be only about two feet high. It is important to make sure the bottom is either buried six to eight inches or staked securely to the ground to prevent rabbits from pushing their way underneath it. Some gardeners prefer to construct moveable fence panels that can be stored as sections and set up to protect the garden right after first planting, when damage is likely to be most severe. New plantings can also be protected by using 1-gallon plastic milk containers that have the bottoms cut out and are placed over the seedlings to provide protection both from rabbits and late frost.
  • Tree Protection - Barriers such as commercial tree wrap may be effective in preventing bark damage by rabbits. Cylinders of hardware cloth (usually self-supporting) or poultry wire (which may require some staking) can also be used. These barriers are placed around the trunks to a height equal to the expected snow depth plus 18 inches. Young trees and saplings are more vulnerable than old trees with thicker, tougher bark. Low-hanging branches may also be within reach of rabbits and should be included inside the barrier if possible. Routine pruning done in the fall will provide a decoy food source for the rabbits if trimmings are left on the ground. Rabbits find twigs and buds more desirable than trunk bark and will concentrate their feeding on these.
  • Repellents - Place blood meal (purchased at lawn and garden centers) around your landscaping.
  • Use an egg solution on your flowers as repellent (mix one egg with one cup of water in a blender, strain the mixture into a spray bottle and apply).

Scare Devices
  • Scare tape or balloons might frighten rabbits away from an area.
  • Place rubber snakes in the garden.
  • Reflective pinwheels might provide a visual deterrent as well.
  • Use motion activated scare devices using water.

Habitat Modification
Habitat Modification is the most effective deterrent for rabbits. Removing cover around gardens and orchards can help reduce damage from rabbits. Plant flowers rabbits do not enjoy, or surround the flowers you like with the flowers rabbits do not like such as marigold, geraniums, and impatiens. Seal any holes under concrete areas below decks and patios and trim shrubs at least 6-8 inches above the ground.

Rabbit Resistant Plants
Although rabbits are entertaining to watch, they can do considerable damage to landscape and gardens. It is difficult to predict what they may graze on from year to year, but here is a list of suggested plant species which seem to be less attractive to rabbits.

Perennials
  • Anemone
  • Aster
  • Balloon Flower
  • Barrenwort
  • Bee Balm (Monarda)
  • Bellflower
  • Bergenia
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Blanket Flower
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Bugbane
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Catmint
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Columbine
  • Dianthus
  • Foxglove
  • Hollyhock
  • Iris
  • Lambs Ear
  • Lamium
  • Lupine
  • Maltese Cross
  • Monkshood
  • Ostrick Fern
  • Peony
  • Poppy
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Salvia
  • Sedum
  • Shasta Daisy
  • Snow o.t.Mountain
  • Tiger Lily
  • Yarrow
  • Yucca

Annuals
  • Agertum
  • Alyssum
  • Calandula
  • Cleome
  • Cornflower
  • Cosmos
  • Dahlia
  • Dianthus
  • Dusty Miller
  • Four O’clock
  • Geranium
  • Grape Hyacinth
  • Impatients
  • Lobelia
  • Marigold
  • Morning Glory
  • Nicotiana
  • Salvia
  • Snapdragon
  • Sweet Peas
  • Verbena
  • Zinnia
 

Shrubs
  • Barberry
  • Cotoneaster
  • Forsythia
  • Honeysuckle
  • Juniper
  • Lilac
  • Mockorange
  • Nannyberry Viburnum
  • Potentilla
  • Smoke Bush
  • Snowberry
  • Spirea
  • Spruce
   

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