Archive for Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bunny tracks

Coerce hungry rabbits, prolific in a city with few predators, to hit the dusty trail

August 16, 2007


Rabbits are everywhere this year - especially in your backyard. In the 12 to 15 months that an average bunny lives - about one in 100 sees its third fall - she will give birth to as many as six litters in a year, with about two to six bunnies per litter.

Rabbits are everywhere this year - especially in your backyard. In the 12 to 15 months that an average bunny lives - about one in 100 sees its third fall - she will give birth to as many as six litters in a year, with about two to six bunnies per litter.

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What do you find is the most effective way to keep rabbits from munching on your landscape plants?

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Detering Bunnies

Other suggestions to deter hungry hares:

  • Install a mesh fence, buried partially into the ground.
  • Wrap the bases of tender trees.
  • Plant clovers and grasses away from prized shrubs.
  • Spray nontoxic repellents; however, these have to be reapplied often.
  • Apply products that smell of fox urine.
  • Spread kitty litter once a week.
  • Surround the garden with chicken manure.
  • Sprinkle cut hair around plants.
  • Use a garden hose to surround plants - rabbits might mistake it for a snake.
  • For a large area, keep tall grass, weeds and brush cut short, reducing their cover.

Plants rabbits crave:

  • Rudbeckias
  • Moonbeam coreopsis
  • Hostas
  • Rose bushes
  • Tulips
  • Coneflowers
  • Aster
  • Coral bell blossoms
  • Lettuce, leafy greens
  • Carrots
  • Most edible vegetables
  • Trees, including apple, plum, cherry, pine, ash, maple, honey locust, bald cypress, cotoneaster, sumac, Japanese barberry and dogwood

Edibles immune to rabbits:

  • Corn
  • Squash
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Some peppers

When I was young, I loved cute, furry, cotton-tailed critters. There was Peter Cottontail, the Velveteen Rabbit, the Easter Bunny, Bugs Bunny. They're ingrained in our memories of childhood as adorable, nose-twitching creatures.

But I'm beginning to see Elmer Fudd's reasoning.

Those wild hares are everywhere.

Why are there so many rabbits? I see babies and adults - in my yard, on golf courses, in parks on campus.

Todd Olson, owner of Critter Control of Kaw Valley, says rabbit populations have remained high in cities but dropped off in the country and timber areas, based on his observations.

"In town, the lack of predation and overabundant food supply are leading to rabbits reproducing with reckless abandon," he says. Predators such as hawks, bobcats, foxes and coyotes may be keeping numbers lower outside city limits.

Unlike most other animals, who are proliferating in the wild as humans encroach on their habitat, the opposite is happening with rabbits.

My hostas are now officially in mourning.

To top that off, rabbits have a way of multiplying like, well, rabbits. In the 12 to 15 months that an average bunny lives - about one in 100 sees its third fall - she will give birth to as many as six litters in a year, with about two to six bunnies per litter. That's anywhere from six to 36 offspring in one year! The gestation period is 28-29 days, and a female is usually pregnant again within a few hours of giving birth.

Yes, ladies, I said a few hours.

There are 13 species of cottontail rabbits, nine of which are found in sections of North America. But the eastern cottontail is the most abundant and widespread - and most likely the critter that is munching on your coneflowers right now.

The eastern cottontail is approximately 15 to 19 inches long and weighs 2 to 4 pounds. Males and females are basically the same size and color. They sport hind feet that are much larger than their forefeet, and their tails are stubby and white. Eastern cottontails live in the entire U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains. They tend to spend their lives in an area smaller than 10 acres, rarely straying except in cases where food or shelter are lacking. Rabbits concentrate in brushy fence rows, field edges, brush piles or landscaped backyards; they are rarely found in open grassland or the forests.

Townie rabbits seem pretty tame anymore. My Great Dane doesn't even deter them; they just sit and stare quizzically at her. But if you need more assurance that it is, indeed, a rabbit munching your prized tulips, look for pellet-sized droppings, bark stripped away from smaller trees and shrubs and, of course, nibbled leaves. The upper and lower front teeth of rabbits make a distinct 45-degree cut on vegetation.

The city of Lawrence has a lot of ground to cover. What do they do to keep the rabbits at bay?

Crystal Miles, horticulture manager for Lawrence Parks and Recreation, says, "We have had success with resistant plants such as artemisia, Russian sage, yarrows, sedums and zinnias. We also have good luck at keeping rabbits away with raised beds."

Olson says the best remedy is fencing the rabbits out of the yard or garden area.

"Rabbits do not climb fences - not yet anyway, but they may evolve," he says. "I have had many requests to trap rabbits. But in eight years in business, our trapping success has been limited. It is difficult to lure an animal into a trap with food items when the entire yard or garden is a never-ending buffet of fresh food."

Mike Lang, campus landscape manager for Kansas University, says he's tried taste deterrents and repellents - both homemade and manufactured - and hasn't been pleased with the results.

"In areas where it is aesthetically acceptable, bird netting staked around the plant works well," he says, "until the plant matures enough that the taste evidently changes and is no longer attractive to rabbits."

Sources:, University of Wisconsin department of wildlife ecology

Jennifer Oldridge, a Kansas University graduate, is an avid gardener who previously operated a landscaping business.


Janet Lowther 10 years, 7 months ago

A big outdoor tom cat can do wonders for the rabbit & squirrels population.

Sigmund 10 years, 7 months ago

Dredge rabbit pieces with 1/2 cup flour. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat; brown rabbit pieces on all sides. Add celery, onion, salt, pepper, bay leaf, 4 cups water, and wine; bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and simmer rabbit stew for 2 hours. Add carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms; cook for about 25 to 30 minutes longer, or until vegetables are tender. Combine 1/4 cup flour and 1/3 cup water; stir until well blended and smooth. Stir flour mixture into the broth; cook and stir until thickened. Rabbit stew recipe serves 4.

trinity 10 years, 7 months ago

oh. i thought this article was talking about "bunny tracks" ice cream. DAYUM that's some good stuff! :)

Sean Livingstone 10 years, 7 months ago

Is bunny part of an eagle's diet? I saw quite a few eagles hanging around town, they might help keep the population under control? If not, let's have some bunny meat in our HyVees?

The_Voice_of_Reason 10 years, 7 months ago

Better to have an over population of bunnies than possums I guess.... at least most rabbits can figure out not to run in front of the car speeding down the street and the ones that do are a proven example of Darwin's theory of evolution.... I figure it's gonna be another 10,000 years before the possums figure out not to step in front of cars...

gccs14r 10 years, 7 months ago


Don't forget to hum while you're doing your prep. Also make sure your rabbit hasn't escaped. :)

"Ehhh, what's cookin', doc?"

Kylee Manahan 10 years, 7 months ago

I second that NSCHMI04. As a young girl with a father who had hay fever and brother with asthma I was put to work mowing our 2 acre yard as soon as I could reach the pedals. I ran over a nest killing all but one and that one lost it's leg. As my mother kept trying to tell me it wouldn't live in captivity I tried nursing it back to health. I woke up the next morning and it had died. I am 54 now and it still seems fresh in my mind. Never mowed again. Right now I love watching the rabbits (eat away bunnies) and I prefer them over the couple of bobcats that are trying to eat them. I keep shooing away the bobcats when I see them. Besides I have an elderly siamese cat that sometimes escapes outside and the bunnies won't eat her, bobcats will.

KansasPerson 10 years, 7 months ago

75x55 (Anonymous) says:

A big mountain lion sized conservative outdoor tom cat:. used to be one in the neighborhood, but now that he's gone, it's nothing but bunnies and those stupid doves.

AND CICADAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jillian Andrews 10 years, 7 months ago

Have we really come to the point where we feel the need to complain about RABBITS. It's almost like there might be more important things going on in the world.....GAWD LJW...get a grip!!!

George_Braziller 10 years, 7 months ago

Thank you stops4armadillos. I feel the same. The are many more issues in the community that have higher priority. Let's see . . . . . what should we write an article about . . . . homelessness, affordable housing, taxes, city budgets, unemployment . .. . . NO let's write an article about rabbits. An alternate topic would be anything about KU football or basketball. Who gives a s#it?

Kaw Pickinton 10 years, 7 months ago

Can you still shoot an air gun in town? A 1000fps .177 will take down any rabbit.

What's up now "doc"?

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