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Green Thumb

Gardening has been a lifelong passion for Wende and she’d like to share her passion with her readers. Follow her as she writes about her gardening adventures, lists tasks to do depending on the season, and gives easy to understand gardening advice.

Rabbit Wars

bulb, garden, landscape, lawn, parks, perennial, plants, spring, yard, tree, rabbit, pest, winter

I look out my front window seething, watching well-fed bunnies happily hopping all around my yard. Don't let them fool you - even though they are fluffy and cute, they are pure evil under all that silky soft fur and innocent demeanor.  Just ask Elmer Fudd and his friends – who have hunted and tracked their silly prey for over 70 years.  Bugs Bunny is less interested in escape than in driving his pursuer insane and can be heard to say (with casual unconcern), “What’s Up, Doc?”.  Well, bunnies, I will hunt you down, trap you all, and get rid of you – for the next 70 years if I have to!  You have eaten your last tulip just as it opens up – sawing off the flower stem with a diagonal bite and leaving the flower petals to dry up on the lawn in the spring sun.  To use your own catchphrase, "Of course you realize this means war!" This is not fun and games.  You seriously have to go.

All kidding aside, rabbits wreak havoc on yards, gardens, and parks where thousands of dollars of trees, shrubs, annuals, bulbs, and garden plants are eaten every year.  Besides munching on the flower heads and tender sprouts in the spring, they do the most damage in the winter when they are foraging for food to fill their nutritional needs.  Have you seen any areas where the bark of your shrubs or young saplings have had their bark scraped off not too far up the base?  Many times you can see where the hard packed snow provides a hill around the trunk that gives them ample access and the ability to stand up on their hind legs and reach as far up as they can. This is called “girdling”.  They girdle the saplings to reach the tree's cambium layer, a coating of sap under the thin bark that provides the tree with nutrients and acts as antifreeze.  Once the inside is exposed, extreme cold weakens the tree’s defenses, allowing it to freeze and inviting disease and pests to get in and kill it.  Parks, golf courses, and botanical gardens (not to mention home and business owners with yards) have to pay the price – replacing the costly vegetation.  This can be $50,000+ a year for a greenscape such as a golf course. 

Some ways to keep these vegetation vampires at bay are shooting, trapping, fencing, spray repellants, used kitty litter, and human hair clippings. I’ve used the hair clipping one with small success, but you have to reapply it often.  Perhaps cat hair would work. Probably the best remedy is to have an outside dog, but many of us can’t protect both the front and back yard with a dog 24/7. Scaring them with plastic owls or cut pieces of hose to replicate a snake doesn’t seem effective. Most of my audience lives in areas where we can’t shoot them, so the next best thing is to trap them although I haven’t researched the rules on where or how to release them. We wouldn’t want the local parks to fill up with our yard rabbits while they are trapping and moving out their park rabbits; that would defeat the purpose!  Bunnies like cracked corn, so I’m going to buy myself a bag of that and use it for bait.. Shhh, I’m hunting wrabbits!  Here bunny bunny…. 

Below I list several resources for controlling and repelling these little varmints. http://www.extension.org/pages/8729/cottontail-rabbit-damage-management http://icwdm.org/handbook/mammals/mam_d75.pdf http://www.extension.iastate.edu/publications/wl47.pdf http://www.uwex.edu/news/read.cfm?id=210 http://www.havahart.com/advice/critter-library/rabbit-control

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