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:
- Moonbeam coreopsis
- Rose bushes
- Coral bell blossoms
- Lettuce, leafy greens
- 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:
- 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: www.kansasforests.org, University of Wisconsin department of wildlife ecology