Common Name: Eastern cottontail rabbit
Scientific Name: Sylvilagus floridanus
- Adult body length (without tail): 14 to 17 inches
- Adult body weight: 2 to 4 pounds
- Gestation period: 28 to 30 days
- Litters per year: 2 to 3
- Litter size: 2 to 10 (usually 2 to 5)
- Breeding season: February through August
- Birthing season: March through September
- Age at which young are weaned: 3 weeks
- Activity period: Night (pre-sunset to post-dawn)
- Range: 10 acres or less
- Primary foods: Vegetables, weeds, wildflowers, shoots, tender twigs, live bark
Rabbit Pest Status
Rabbits are considered to be pests because they feed on succulent flowering and leafy ornamentals and garden vegetables in spring and summer; then they girdle and kill shrubs and saplings as a result of feeding during winter. Rabbits can be discouraged from hiding and nesting on the premises if existing features that provide cover are removed. Such features include lower branches of shrubs that cover the ground, tall, dense vegetation, wood and debris piles and spaces beneath out buildings.
Rabbits can be prevented from accessing valued ornamental plantings, as well as fruit-bearing plants and vegetables, by installing a 2 foot high fence, comprised of chicken wire or 1/2 to 1 inch mesh galvanized hardware cloth around the planting bed, fruit patch or garden to be protected. The base of the fence should be secured to the ground, or slightly below soil level, to prevent rabbits from squeezing through narrow gaps along the bottom margin. Cylinders constructed of 1/4 to 1/2 inch mesh hardware cloth, standing 18 to 24 inches high from the ground and extending a few inches into the soil, will protect the woody ornamentals and young trees they encircle from rabbit feeding damage, provided the diameter of the cylinders is 2 to 4 inches greater than the diameter of the trunks and stems they surround.
Live-catch wire cage traps (16″ x 5″ x 5″ or similar) can be effective for reducing rabbit populations in an area, provided an attractive vegetable bait or lure can be found to compete with the surrounding vegetation preferred by rabbits for food. Good winter baits include dried half-ears of corn and dried alfalfa and clover (available in pet supply stores). Cage traps can also be set as funnel traps to capture rabbits leaving tight spaces under decks that are in the process of being excluded with a buried wire fence.
Although not a method practiced by Varment Guard, hunting can be an effective way to reduce rabbit populations in an area, provided it is done in compliance with local firearms laws, if the property owner is so inclined.
Several commercially available products containing irritating essential oils, capsaicin, and predator scents are registered for use as taste and scent repellents for rabbits. However, most of these products are not suited for use on vegetables or fleshy parts of plants because they render vegetables inedible to humans or they are somewhat phytotoxic to tender plant parts. Repellents are generally recommended for use on woody parts of shrubs and saplings and ground sites desirable to rabbits for hiding and nesting. The problem with most repellents is their short-lived efficacy when applied to surfaces exposed to the elements. Periodic reapplications may be needed to keep rabbits away.
No EPA-registered toxic baits are available for rabbit control, and the poisoning of rabbits is not recommended.