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Rabbit Evidence of Intrusion

Rabbit evidence of intrusion is mostly based on their love of your garden vegetables and landscaping. In some cases it may be as simple as catching them in the act, however, this may not be the case for all. As many of us have found, if one (1) animal finds your yard and gardens irresistible, so, too, may other hungry animals. Try these tips below to establish if a rabbit is intruding in your yard.

Rabbit Evidence of Intrusion- Tracks

Rabbit tracks are most certainly a sure sign of intrusion. Rear tracks of a cottontail and a jackrabbit are paired together as can be seen in the drawing below. Look for tracks in soft soils like you find in your garden beds, wet dirt, sandy areas or in snow.

 

Rabbit Evidence of Intrusion-Visual

If you want to see for yourself if rabbits are indeed the culprits you’ve been looking for have no fear, you do not have to wake in the middle of night to catch them gnawing on your saplings. Despite the fact that rabbits are nocturnal, they spend most of their feeding time during the hours just after daybreak and just before. Try to view your garden and orchard areas during these hours to see if you can visual observation of rabbits in your yard and gardens.

Rabbit Evidence of Intrusion-Scat

Whatever you prefer to call it, the excrement of rabbits is a sure sign of intrusion. Rabbit scat is more pellet shaped. They are fairly dry, black and small. They are circular or spherical with the actual size depending on the type of rabbit. For instance, jackrabbits are larger animals therefore their scat is larger than cottontail droppings. Look for a scattering of one-half inch sized scat in jackrabbit territories and smaller, one-quarter inch droppings in cottontail habitats.

  

Rabbit Evidence of Intrusion-Gnawing

The most undeniable evidence of intrusion will be on the plants that the rabbits eat. Rabbits gnaw with very large front incisors. They make a clean clip at about a 45 degree angle. Look for this damage close to ground (not to be confused with deer browsing which is normally two (2) feet or so above the ground and jaggedly cut). In areas where snow is prevalent damage may appear higher on the plants.

Look for gnaw marks on younger trees more often than older trees. Tooth marks will run horizontally on younger trees because the animal must turn its head to get into the perfect feeding position.

Rabbit Evidence of Intrusion-Plants not Eaten

Perhaps the best evidence of intrusion of the rabbit is in the plants that they DON’T eat! If you are finding that your beans and lettuce are being chewed up but your cucumbers are not touched, you may have a rabbit problem. Other foods that rabbits will not partake in are arugula, squash, potatoes, garlic, tomatoes and asparagus. You find them nibbling at your daylilies either.

From gnaw marks to leaving your tomato plants untouched while your leaf lettuce has been wiped out, there many ways to determine rabbit evidence of intrusion.

Rabbit Interesting Facts

  • There are 14 species of rabbits in North America
  • Rabbits and Hares are often confused but are actually different species with different physical characteristics.
  • Hares are different from rabbits with respect to size. Hares are larger overall and have rear legs longer than the front legs.
  • Rabbits are hunted for their fur and as a food source
  • Swamp rabbits are the second most hunted rabbit in the United States.
  • Rabbits do not hibernate
  • Rabbits are nocturnal
  • Rabbits and Hares avoid predators by freezing- or not moving at all
  • Rabbits and Hares avoid predators by flushing – moving in a zig zag pattern by moving away.
  • Rabbits and Hares can run at speeds up to 18 miles per hour.
  • Rabbits can swim and climb trees!
  • Snowshoe hares actually change from white to brown fur from winter to spring. The overall change takes about ten (10) weeks to occur.
  • Cottontails breed from February to September.
  • Rabbits have an average of three (3) to four (4) litters per year.
  • Rabbits generally have five (5) babies each litter on average
  • Gestation for rabbits is about 28 days.
  • Female rabbits are called "does"; males are called "bucks."
  • Rabbits do not sweat, but instead radiate body heat from their large ears.
  • Rabbits may live up to two years in the wild, but where predators are numerous they seldom survive more than one year.
  • Cottontails usually hop, but they can leap 10 to 15 feet.
  • When being chased rabbits will jump sideways to break their scent trail.
  • They do not like getting wet but know how to swim if needed.

Rabbit Diet

Rabbit diet, no matter what species, is simply vegetarian. They enjoy a variety of green plants including bark, wood shrubs and twigs. Their appetites are quite ravenous and while the will eat all day long, their peak eating times are early morning after the sunrise and in the evening just after sunset.

Rabbit Diet-Food

The food of the rabbit diet is quite consistent through the species, less the necessary differences due to where in the country they reside. As with any wild animals they will share in any type of green vegetation but they do have some favorites.

In wild spaces they will fill their bellies with grasses including bluegrass, rye, sagebrush, and savannah panicgrass when available and switch over to bark and twigs during the winter months. Trees and shrubs preferred are the Juniper bush and berries, willows, poplars, cherry, apple and citrus trees, almond and pistachio trees and nuts, dogwoods, sumacs, and birch. Maples and ash are normally only eaten when the trees are young. Rabbits are not known to enjoy in walnuts and oaks too often.

As for your vegetable gardens the rabbits will diet on a great many backyard garden staples. This includes, leaf lettuces including reds and black seeded simpson’s and more compact varieties such as iceberg. They will also eat eggplant, green beans and lima beans, radishes, spinach, beets, peas, broccoli, and watermelons. Your berry patches are not immune to the dietary requirements of rabbits either. They can most certainly do heavy damage to strawberries and those thorny raspberries are not safe either!

Much to the dismay of many gardeners the rabbit will not stop at the vegetable garden; rabbits have been known to spend much time in the flower garden, too! Here you will see your zinnias, petunias and snapdragons snipped off clean. Any small ornamental trees will become delectable fare for the rabbits, or hares, that you may have living in or around your property.

Rabbit Diet-Physical Attributes

Eating the bark and twigs throughout the winter makes ultimate nutrition a difficult task to accomplish. To help the rabbit get the nutrients it needs from the diet it has they have a physical process within called caecal fermentation. Certain required nutrients are created inside the rabbit’s digestive system and must be reabsorbed. These created nutrients are rereleased through the rabbit’s anus and eaten by the animal. Rabbits have two (2) types of excrement. The first, called fecal pellets, contain waste materials and the second, termed cecotropes, contain those nutrients. These nutrient pellets contain bacteria and fungi that hold essential nutritional elements that are not only needed for proper nutrition, but may actually help to protect the animals from diseases.

Those big teeth are quite helpful with the rabbit diet, too; especially when they are trying to get bark of the trees in the winter time.

Rabbit Diet-Benefits and Detriments to Humans and the Ecosystem

When populations are high rabbits and hares can have a very negative impacts on both backyard and commercial growers. They have been blamed for nearly completely destroying plantings in yards and gardens as well as some agricultural crops, and rehabilitated rangeland. Occasionally their ravenous appetite is in direct competition with grazing cows.

From their affinity for common garden crops to the bark of a pistachio tree most of the plants found beneficial to the human diet is a staple for the rabbit diet.

Rabbit Habitat

Rabbit habitat extends throughout much of the world and the North American continent. Some prefer arid regions of the desert southwest, the swampy areas of the lowlands in the southeast, the high mountain hardwood forests of the Rocky Mountains and Appalachians not to mention the edge habitats the line many of our suburban neighborhoods.

Rabbit Habitat-Range

The range table below illustrates the range of many of the rabbits and jackrabbits (hares) found throughout the US, Canada and Mexico.

Rabbit Habitat-Nests

Often confused with underground nesting rabbits in Europe, the rabbits found in North America are ground nesters. The scientific name for a rabbit nest is “form”. These forms are most often simply a depression in the ground. These nests are normally lined with fur. Cottontails will make a nest for their young only few days before giving birth.

Adult rabbits will normally sleep under tall, thick brush or occasionally take advantage of an empty underground burrow made by another animal.

From the mountains of the western states to the marshy lowlands of south central US the climate and forest cover of the North American continent make up excellent rabbit habitat.

Rabbit Benefits & Detriments to Humans and the Ecosystem

Rabbits and Hares can cause substantial damage as is common with animals that proliferate at an accelerated rate. Rabbits can be quite detrimental in that they have been known to chew through irrigation lines and carry many diseases such as tularemia, ticks, mites and others that can adversely affect humans.

Contrarily, rabbits provide an important food source for their prey animals and humans alike. They also provide an excellent source of fertilizer for the ecosystem.

Whether you are a suburban homeowner or a commercial grower there are many common positive and negative affects of the rabbits in your yard, gardens or landscaping.

Rabbit Behavior

One of the most common misconceptions about the North American rabbits is that they dig holes or burrows. While this is common for European rabbits it is not at all common for the rabbits that live in North America, save for the very small populations of European rabbits that have been introduced to the continent by humans.

Rabbits are often witnessed eating their feces. In actuality rabbits have both feces and a nutritional pellet that exit their bodies. They eat the nutritional pellet which is a part of their physiological system that makes up for their nutritional deficiencies caused by their diet.

Rabbits are nocturnal, most active after the sun sets. During the day you will find most all varieties of rabbits sleeping in hollow logs or thick, dense brush. If they are disturbed or frightened by a potential predator they will most definitively freeze in place. If they get the chance after this, they will run away in a zig zag pattern to evade a would-be predator. A cottontail can run at speeds up to 18 miles per hour if needed. Some scientists refer to this zig zag run as flushing. Another evasion technique is called slinking. This involves the animal moving low to the ground and placing the ears back to prevent the animal from being discovered by its predators.

Vocally, they make several sounds. Screams and grunts are common during mating with screams, grunts or squeals made to scare a predator away. Predators will vary based on location, but include, weasels, foxes, coyotes, owls, hawks, alligators and humans.

Giving birth to three (3) to four (4) litters per year leads to quite a hectic family life for the rabbit. Litters average three (3) for four (4) babies born about 25 days after copulation. No matter what the species, rabbit or hare, prolific breeding is a common trait. Sexual maturity is achieved quickly, around two (2) to three (3) months, in fact, as much as 25% of parents are actually still considered juveniles. Babies of both the jackrabbits and cottontails are born blind and helpless but grow fast! Their eyes open in the first week and they eat only twice per day.

Interesting, the mating rituals of the rabbits include a male chasing a doe until she looks at him. Then she punches or boxes at him. They will then crouch, facing each other and jump up to two (2) feet into the air!

Rabbit Physical Appearance

Rabbits and hares vary in a few different ways. First, overall the jackrabbits, snowshoes and other hares a normally larger than any of the rabbit varieties. Secondly, they have longer ears with black tips.

Snowshoe hares, common in the western portions of the US, have large feet that help them to move in the snow. They also sport a “snow” white winter coat that changes to brown in the spring once the snow melts.

The black-tailed jackrabbit, most common of the US jackrabbits, weighs anywhere from three (3) to seven (7) pounds and can reach lengths of up to 21 inches. They have long ears with black tips and, as is common with all hares, rear legs that are longer than the front. The top side of the tail is black with an overall body color of grayish brown.

Unlike the jackrabbits described above, cottontail rabbits have shorter legs and are smaller overall. Of the cottontail rabbits, the Eastern Cottontail is the most prevalent. These rabbits often grow to lengths of 18 inches and don’t normally exceed six (6) pounds. The cottontail’s eyes are fairly large for its size. Their fur is normally brown with gray and black tips and they have a reddish orange patch on its neck and are white underneath from its throat to its tail. Shedding their fur twice per year leaves the animals with browner coat in the spring and grayer hue in the winter.

The largest of the cottontail rabbits in North America are the swamp rabbits found, more often than not, in the southeast and central United States. It does have smaller ears than other cottontails, but is longer and weighs more on average. The coloring is essentially the same save for a visible cinnamon colored ring around the eyes.

The Desert Cottontails (Audobon’s Rabbit) are about 15 inches long and 2 pounds on average. Their fur is grey with a hint of yellow.

Rabbit Natural History

Rabbits and their relatives are found throughout the world. In the US and Canada there are both rabbits and hares, AKA Jackrabbits, living amongst us. They are quite happily living in our yards and gardens and in nearby wooded areas. The most common are the Eastern Cottontail, Swamp and Marsh rabbits in the east, with the Snowshoe Rabbit (Hare), Desert Rabbit and the Black-Tailed Jackrabbit (Hare) prevalent in the west.

Rabbit Eastern Cottontail

Scientific Name: Sylvilagus floridanus
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Lagomorphae
Family: Leporidae
Genus: Sylvilagus
Species: floridanus

Mr. McGregor wasn’t angry with Peter Rabbit for nothing. Peter Rabbit was no doubt making quite a dent in his harvest! Rabbits have long been a thorn in the side of the home gardeners and some commercial growers alike because of their affinity for garden and orchard fare. Indeed their near voracious appetite and prolific breeding habits have made rabbits a pest of yards, gardens and landscaping wherever they live.

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