Urban Wildlife Damage Control
C ottontail rabbits, Sylvilagus
floridanus, are one of the most
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
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
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)
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.
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: http://www.oznet.ksu.edu
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
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Kansas State University, County Extension Councils, Extension Districts, and United States Department of Agriculture Cooperating, Marc A. Johnson,