There are many types of rabbits and hares native to North America. However, the majority of those long-eared creatures you’ll spot in your yard or around your home will be eastern cottontails. These rabbits are native to the Eastern states of the U.S., but now they’re found everywhere from New England to the arid Southwest. Rarely other native or introduced rabbits will pose a problem by burrowing into your lawn or eating your garden.
Knowing the natural habitats that rabbits prefer will go a long way in helping you discourage them. It’s often simply a case of removing the environments they need from around your home to make them stop dropping by.
Find out where the wild rabbits are hiding and how to create gardens and yards that are less appealing to them.
Out in the Wild: Forest Edges and Meadows
Rabbits prefer their natural habitats, so you’ll find more of them in rural areas and forests than in the city. Yet they don’t frolic deep in the woods where there’s not much sunlight. Since rabbits feed on freshly grown grass and similar small plants, they need meadows and edges where the trees give way to grassy areas. If the grass goes on too far and is too open, they’re at risk of becoming the lunch of a hawk or other predator. You’ll find rabbits sticking to the edges, where brambles and brush grow to give them cover while letting them get close to the shorter plants that need direct sun to grow. If they’re wandering out into open meadows, it’s a sign there is little predator pressure or an overpopulation issue driving them to risk themselves for more food.
Unfortunately, wooded edges match the exact description of most rural homeowners’ yards. Leaving your property wooded keeps temperatures cool and helps the environment. It also encourages rabbits to move into the places where your tree cover breaks open for patches of grass or lawn. You can quickly find your beautiful lawn becoming a series of holes and mounds dug by rabbits creating their own homes.
It’s often a big challenge to handle these animals in rural and wooded areas simply because they can reproduce and fill in all the appropriate areas despite your attempts to control them. Thankfully, you do have more predators on your side in the fight, and encouraging the habitats of foxes and hawks can solve your problem as long as you keep your house pets inside.
In the Suburbs: Brush, Untouched Corners, and Lawn Edges
The suburb, especially today’s modern designs that preserve as much greenspace and wooded area as possible, is the rabbit’s ideal habitat. The Eastern Cottontail is particularly fond of the ability to hide in the bushes and trees between houses and then dart out to sample the grass, herbs, and flowers you’re growing. Even something as simple as an untouched corner of your yard that grows a dense cover of brambles could become the home to a thriving family of rabbits.
Reducing the surrounding habitats is often impossible because your neighbors may find the visitors cute or desirable rather than a pest. Still, there are tricks for discouraging and outsmarting rabbits, even in the suburbs.
In the City: Playgrounds, Parks, and Abandoned Areas
You might think of a wild rabbit as a symbol of the countryside, but they’re among the most commonly spotted forms of wildlife in the city. Urban rabbits squeeze themselves into any brushy edge habitat they manage to find in a human-centric environment. Since the parks, office areas, and playgrounds that often feature landscaping they like are mixed in with residential areas, they also visit a lot of homes in the urban environment. The same wooded area you wanted to live near for scenic reasons could send rabbits and other animals your way to nibble your flowers.
However, rabbits tend to face more pressure in the city environment. That means they’re also less likely to pose real problems for urban homeowners. The townhouse owner who has only a small strip of lawn or flowerbeds to protect also tends to have an easier time excluding rabbits than suburban or rural owners dealing with multiple acres of open land. The only downside is the reduction in natural predators to control their numbers, although diseases and artificial predators, like dogs and cats, do their part.
The ingenuity and almost magical survival skills of Bugs Bunny are barely an exaggeration. The wild rabbits around your home are more adaptable than you might think. Understanding what kind of cover they need and the food sources they prefer will go a long way in helping you control their incursions onto your property.