AARGH! Millions of Bunny Rabbits!!

CassandraMay 26, 2012

Gosh, my garden is completely overrun with bunnies this year. Is yours? Was it the mild winter? I have a whole extended family come out every evening and nibble their way through (so far) my Asian Lillies, my Rudebeckia, and my bran' new Serviceberry shrub. Then the little buggers stretch out and doze for hours in the very middle of the lawn as if they hadn't a worry in the world. My garden is small and I'm in a condo so I'm not going to put up wire but (I guess) just live and let live--although not without gritting my teeth. The Lillies and Black Eyed Susans are gone (**SIGH**), but I really hope the serviceberry survives--it is about 2' tall and they just decimated the lower leaves.

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Rabbits are bad here this year as well - more so than usual. I have lost a lot of plants and wasted a lot of money and labor over the years because of these vermin. If a reader can not deal with the thought of killing them then do not bother to read any further.

I live in the country and use a combination of four control methods which are not perfect but they keep the damage minimized and the rabbit population under control for a year.

1. Coyote urine seems to keep rabbits at bay but can be costly, is a hassle, and has to be reapplied continuously. The junk in the bottles at the big box stores and the stinky homemade recipes have the same hassles and have the added distinction of being useless.

2. I protect valuable plants with a cylindrically woven chicken wire cage that is placed over a plant and anchored with a stake. Works perfectly but is ugly and impractical for large numbers of plants.

3. Shotgun shells and .22 calibre long rifle rounds. Need I say more? This is by far the most effective control method, but wild rabbits are wily and a person will never get rid of all of them. All that is needed is a breeding pair to survive your hunting efforts and you will have dozens of rabbits after the next breeding cycle. Hunting with a gun is obviously not an option in urban areas.

4. Having a pet dog. This helps but will not by itself solve the problem because adult rabbits just seem to taunt the dogs. Dogs go nuts over rabbits and will ignore everything else during a chase, including his master's commands. A person will have a serious problem in an unfenced urban setting because the dog will chase a rabbit into the neighbor's yard or into a busy street. But dogs are very good at finding the rabbit nests and killing the babies. Most vegetable and ornamental damage occurs from young rabbits "taste testing" plants to learn what to eat, and destroying the nests stops a lot of damage from even occurring to begin with. Just make certain your dog is properly protected from getting worms because dogs will eat most of the babies and you will rarely know when this occurs.

My dachshund is an excellent huntress and destroys several nests each year. She was trained to bring the dead babies to the porch for a reward but she usually just brings one (and I suspect eats the rest), as if to show off and get some praise and special attention (which she does get of course) while still doing what she wants to do. Typical dachshund...

Fencing: Obviously one of the best solutions but may not suit the landscaping, may not be an option in an urban setting, or may simply be impractical (as it is for me).

I am not aware of any poisons available for use against rabbits, but I do not like using them nor do I recommend using them because they are indiscriminate and dangerous.

I would estimate that I have eradicated well over 500 rabbits over the years and each spring the problem starts all over again as if I haven't done a thing. They are a nuisance, but are also a potential renewable food source if need be. Not much meat on them, but wild rabbit does taste pretty good barbecued on the grill. Rabbit stew ain't too bad either.

For now I suggest at least making a chicken wire cage to protect that serviceberry. The problem doesn't end in fall either - serviceberry is a fruitwood and rabbits will debark the branches at snowpack-level in winter, thus killing them.

In summation, if you live in an urban or suburban area your control options are extremely limited. Just remember that rabbit populations will explode and then crash in a cyclical fashion, so maybe this is the worst you will ever see. Maybe your urban coyote population will increase due to the increased food supply - can be a good thing but not if you have a small dog. If you live in a rural area you have many options but you also have a serious annual problem to contend with in perpetuity.

Deer have been a big problem for me here this year as well. Illegal for me to shoot them so I have been thinking of sending the MN DNR an itemized bill for damages, just to piss off some overpayed, overperked, underworked idiot government desk-jockey bureaucrat.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 2:04AM
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I like the idea of sending a bill Tom! This year we've had bunnies take apart 2 out of our 5 blueberry bushes, and now they've discovered my newly planted grape vines. I decided to just do a barrier fence of chicken wire and metal posts. I bought green posts and green vinyl covered chicken wire, so it actually doesn't look that ugly. The green sort of blends in with the grass and other shrubs. It was easy, pretty cheap... and problem solved. I guess you could always set out a live trap and do a bunny relocation project. That's alot of work! ;)

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 9:56PM
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To deter rabbits and deer from munching on garden/landscape.

3 hot green chilies

2 cloves garlic

3-4 tsp liquid detergent

1 1/4 pt water

Leave stand 24 hrs; strain and dilute with 1/2 pt water.

Improvised recipe:

I used chili powder and garlic powder (from dollar store); requires straining through old clothing, as the larger particles will clog a sprayer.

Other gardeners have used bloodmeal, but that doesn't last through rain. I bought some today because I thought I had a coupon.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 1:26AM
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I had more last year than this, for some reason.

Just a note...if they are hungry enough, deterrents will lose their effectiveness. They also can over time just through habituation/desensitization.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 3:39PM
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I have lots of bunnies also. The neighbor's yard has several overgrown brushy areas - perfect for nests. We have seen one small one grow to a young adult and now have another small one visiting regularly. Yikes! We have deer fencing around our yard but the rabbits are simply slipping underneath. Too big a yard to put up partially buried fence . I have put out a Havahart baited with apples. After finding the bait gone and the trap untripped, I now skewer the apple slices and poke the skewer into the ground at the back of the trap. In 5 days I have caught 10 squirrels - no rabbits! Suggestions on a different bait? how do I get them to the back of the trap?

    Bookmark   June 5, 2012 at 12:04PM
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I call her bunny control. :) haha actually her name is Tasha.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 1:14AM
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I'm now trying Liquid Fence. The newly planted service-berry seems to be getting its little leaf growth back, but the baby rabbits are still lounging in my yard every so often. I wish I could borrow Tasha!

    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 3:35PM
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Anybody try the scarecrow motion sprinkler (or an arsenal of them?)

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 2:37AM
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dandy_line(3B (Brainerd, Mn))

How about hot chili powder sprinkled on plants?

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 2:30PM
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Buy a black lab and the bunny problems are over but make sure you are fenced in. Since we got our bear as we call him he has killed a whole family and has brought 2 big ones to the deck door. My problem is he likes to eat the pears and the grapes so I had to put up a garden fence around the grapes. If a black lab don't work get a Terrier or some sort. Need a fence because my neighbors are having the same problem as you and have considered a dog or building a fence with with an opening to my yard so Bear can kill there's also. We can't shoot them because that's the law in our area.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 1:34PM
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nick_b79(4/5 Southeast MN)

Funny, I've been scouting for locations to hunt rabbits and squirrels this fall at all the local farms, with so-so results (most farmers don't want other hunters around, it seems).

Maybe I should have just posted on GW instead? :-)

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 5:42PM
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dandy_line(3B (Brainerd, Mn))

I've been sprinkling my flowers with hot cayenne pepper. It really does stop the deer predation and seems to last a long time. But After hard rain it needs to be redone. I'm now buying it in bulk on Amazon and eBay.
I don't have the bunny problem. Maybe because I live in a native woodsy area, lots of pines and no grass.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2013 at 10:40PM
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