Cottontail Rabbits Urban Wildlife Damage Control

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					Cottontail Rabbits
Urban Wildlife Damage Control

C     ottontail rabbits, Sylvilagus
floridanus, are one of the most
                                            Managing Urban
commonly observed animals in urban             Gnawing marks and twigs cut at
and suburban areas, but they can be         an angle, clippings on the nearby
found throughout Kansas. Their light-       ground and round, pea-sized drop-
brown upper body contrasts with their       pings are signs of cottontail rabbits.
white fur belly. Long ears and a            During snow cover, cottontail rabbit
stubby powder-puff tail are their           tracks are easily identified (Figure 1,
distinguishing characteristics. Adult       page 2).                                        Panels can be made in various
cottontail rabbits are 15 to 19 inches                                                    lengths to match the size of the garden
long and weigh 2 to 4 pounds.               Exclusion                                     or storage facility. Lightweight posts,
   Cottontail rabbits produce 3 to 4           Rabbitproof fences are a practical         such as electric fence posts, are
litters of young a year, beginning in       and inexpensive way to protect                sufficient for support. One post should
late winter and continuing into early       valuable plants. Rabbits can be               be placed in each corner and at each
fall. Females build a nest approxi-         excluded from small areas of veg-             junction of the panels. They can be
mately the size of a softball, line it      etable and flower gardens, nurseries          fastened to the posts with a light
with fur from their bellies, and nurse      and ornamental plants by encircling           malleable wire. If protected with a
their young for 2 to 3 weeks before         these areas with 1-inch mesh galva-           good coat of paint, panels should last
they leave the nest.                        nized wire 18 to 24 inches high               for several years.
    Leash laws restricting movements        (Figure 2, page 2). Permanent posts             Small trees or seedlings can be
of dogs and cats and laws prohibiting       are not required, but the bottom edge         protected with cylinder guards made
the use of firearms protect cottontail      of the wire must be staked to the             from small mesh hardware wire.
rabbits.                                    ground or buried several inches deep          These rabbit guards should be 18 to
   Cottontails prefer brushy cover          to prevent rabbits from burrowing             24 inches high or higher depending on
interspersed with open areas. Abun-         under the fence. Reusable fence               the average snowfall. Cylinders
dant growth during the spring and           panels may easily be constructed to           should be large enough around to
summer provides the rabbits with all        protect a garden. These 18- to 24-inch        prevent rabbits from reaching through
the food and cover they need. In the        high panels allow gardeners easy              and damaging trees and should be
winter, when food is limited, rabbits       access, yet exclude foraging rabbits.         staked for support.
eat twigs and gnaw the bark of woody        Panel frames can be constructed with            Vexar is the trade name for a com-
plants. This is why young trees and         1- by 2-inch or 2- by 2-inch lumber. A        mercially available seedling protector.
seedlings need to be protected from         lightweight 1-inch mesh galvanized            These protectors are tubes made of
rabbits during the winter months.           wire, such as poultry netting (18 to 24       polypropylene plastic netting and are
Landscaped yards provide excellent          inches high), is fastened to one side of      easily installed at planting time. Avoid
rabbit habitats, accounting for the         the frame.                                    installing them during freezing
prevalence of cottontails in most                                                         weather because Vexar becomes
suburban and urban areas.                                                                 brittle and is easily broken.
   Cottontail rabbits spend their lives
in small areas of 10 acres or less. In
good habitats where cottontail rabbits         Urban Wildlife Damage Control
are firmly established, efforts to                 Bats, L-855                                Skunks, L-862
permanently reduce the rabbit
                                                   Birds, L-856                               Tree Squirrels, L-863
population generally are not success-
ful. Once a number of rabbits are                  Blackbirds in Roosts, L-857                Snakes, L-864
removed, cottontails from adjacent                 Cottontail Rabbits, L-858                  Woodchucks, L-865
areas move in.
                                                   Muskrats, L-859                            Woodpeckers, L-866
                                                   Opossums, L-860                            Woodrats, L-867
                                                   Raccoons, L-861

                      Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service                      1
     Figure 1. Tracks and droppings of the cottontail

       Various paper and plastic wraps—        lure them. During the summer,             rabbit can see it, with some bait at the
    including tin foil—can be placed           exclusion is more feasible.               outside entrance and the rest inside,
    directly around the trunks of small          If live traps are used, place them in   beyond the trigger at the back.
    trees to prevent cottontail rabbit         an area with a lot of rabbit activity,       These traps seem to catch more
    damage.                                    evidenced by tracks and gnawing on        rabbits once the first cottontail is
                                               woody plants. Use live traps that mea-    captured. When the first one is in the
    Laws and Regulations                       sure 6 by 6 by 24 inches. Metal traps     trap, leave it long enough to allow it
      Cottontail rabbits are classified as     of this size may be purchased from        to leave scent, but not long enough to
    small game in Kansas, but currently        various sources, such as farm and         stress the animal. Check traps daily.
    they may be taken throughout the year      garden and hardware stores.               Lettuce, apples, carrots and corn are
    with proper permits and within bag           A cage-live trap can also be            all good bait.
    limits. KSA 32-1002, “does not             constructed of wood using a few
    prevent owners or legal occupants of       simple hand tools. The design and         Repellents
    land from killing any animals when         dimensions for building a wooden trap       Rabbit repellents are often unsatis-
    found in or near buildings on their        are included on the opposite page.        factory for protecting plants from
    premises, or when found destroying           To catch cottontails, the cage trap     rabbits. The label restrictions on most
    property, subject to the following: (A)    must be placed in or along the trails     rabbit repellents limit their use
    the provisions of all federal laws and     made by rabbits using these areas.        predominately to woody plants and to
    regulations governing protected            Opinions vary as to the importance of     the winter months when rabbits are
    species and provisions of the Kansas       using baits, but some prefer to use
    nongame and endangered species             them. Always place the bait so the
    conservation act are met; (B) it is
    unlawful to use or possess with intent
    to use, an animal so killed unless au-
    thorized by rules and regulations of
    the secretary; and (C) such owners or
    legal occupants shall make reasonable
    efforts to alleviate their problems with
    any such animals before killing them.”

       Along with exclusion, using
    wooden-cage traps is probably the
    most practical means of controlling
    problem rabbits in urban areas. Live
    trapping is less effective during the
    summer months because abundant
    vegetation makes it more difficult to

                                                Figure 2. Rabbitproof fencing

Building a rabbit live trap

Materials list:
All box parts can be built from a single 1" x 8" board 10 ft. long (see diagram).
Lever—3⁄4" x 3⁄4" x 181⁄2"
Pivot—3⁄4" x 3⁄4" x 71⁄2"
Guides—3⁄4" x 3⁄4" x height of side (make 4)
Trigger—-3⁄8" or 1⁄2" dowel 11 inches long (see trigger detail)

Cutting Diagram

Trigger Detail

    most likely to cause damage. Snow                       higher fatty acids are applied more                      Other Methods
    and rain decrease their effectiveness,                  frequently, especially after rains.                         Frightening devices, including elec-
    so they must be reapplied as neces-                     Contact repellents applied during the                    tromagnetic and ultrasonic units, have
    sary.                                                   growing season must be reapplied as                      not been proven effective in control-
       Repellents must be used according                    new growth emerges.                                      ling cottontail rabbit damage. There
    to label instructions. Carefully follow                    Apply contact repellents such as                      are no poisons or fumigants for rabbits
    directions on dilution, rates of                        Thiram, Ropel and Millers Hot Sauce                      registered for use in Kansas.
    application, and number of repeat                       directly to the plants because rabbits                      For further information write to
    treatments permitted.                                   are repelled by the taste.                               Wildlife Damage Control, 131 Call
       In the typical urban situation where                    Thiram, one of the safest and most                    Hall, Kansas State University,
    problems with cottontail rabbits occur,                 effective contact repellents, generally                  Manhattan, Kansas, 66506-1600,
    generally it is garden crops that are                   is used during the dormant season.                       785-532-5734.
    damaged. Normally, repellents are not                   Thiram is water soluble and a sticker                       Figure of cottontail rabbit on page
    designed or recommended for use on                      must be added. (Stickers are listed on                   1 and paw prints on page 2 reprinted
    plants grown for human consumption.                     the Thiram label). Normally, one                         from The Wild Mammals of Missouri
       Repellents can be classified as area                 application of Thiram with a sticker                     by Charles W. and Elizabeth R.
    (odor) or contact repellents. Area                      will last the entire dormant season.                     Schwartz, by permission of the
    repellents, which include bloodmeal,                    Repellents can be brushed, sprayed or                    University of Missouri Press. Copy-
    ammonium soaps of higher fatty acids                    dipped onto the plants and should be                     right 1981 by the Curators of the
    (Hinder), bone tar oil (Magic Circle                    applied 18 to 24 inches above the                        University of Missouri.
    Rabbit Repellent), and other similar                    expected snow depth. Follow label
    repellents, are used during the                         directions closely when handling,
    growing season. Ammonium soaps of                       applying and storing repellents.

                                                                           Charles Lee
                                                                          Wildlife Specialist

                  Brand names appearing in this publication are for product identification purposes only. No endorsement is intended,
                                             nor is criticism implied of similar products not mentioned.
                      Publications from Kansas State University are available on the World Wide Web at:

     Contents of this publication may be freely reproduced for educational purposes. All other rights reserved. In each case, credit Charles Lee,
                           Cottontail Rabbits, Urban Wildlife Damage Control, Kansas State University, September 1992.

    Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service
    L-858                                                                                                                                           September 1992
    It is the policy of Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service that all persons shall have equal opportunity
    and access to its educational programs, services, activities, and materials without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age or disability. Kansas
    State University is an equal opportunity organization. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension Work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, as amended.
    Kansas State University, County Extension Councils, Extension Districts, and United States Department of Agriculture Cooperating, Marc A. Johnson,


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