Living with Rabbits

cottontail rabbitRabbits and hares are found throughout much of Ontario. The most common species is the eastern cottontail rabbit, which lives in urban and rural areas.


Rabbits are usually found in or near wooded areas and meadows. They have also adapted to increasing urbanization and frequently live in city parks, golf courses and residential yards.


Female rabbits give birth to blind, hairless young which require considerable attention for their first two weeks of life. Meanwhile, hares are born fully furred with their eyes open, and can hop about within hours of their birth.


Both rabbits and hares are incredibly fast. They can reach speeds of 60 to 75 kilometres per hour. This speed is a necessity for eastern cottontails, since they have numerous predators and few natural defense mechanisms.


Contrary to popular belief, eastern cottontail rabbits are not burrowing animals. They nest in shallow depressions in lawns and fields.


Conflicts happen

 

Rabbits may eat leafy garden plants, buds, twigs and bark. They will also feed on garden vegetables and fruit when available.

 

Please keep in mind…

 

Wild animals have the same basic needs as humans – food, water and shelter. Sometimes, humans and wild creatures come into conflict when animals are trying to meet their basic needs. Often, conflicts can be prevented if we’re willing to make small changes to how we think and act.

 

People and wild animals live side by side in Ontario. We all share responsibility for preventing and handling human-wildlife conflicts. If you must take action against wildlife, please consider all your options and follow all relevant laws and regulations.

 

Conflicts with Rabbits

 
How Can I Prevent Conflicts?

 

Limit food sources

  • Never feed rabbits or leave food which rabbits may eat outside.
  • Pick fruit and vegetables as soon as they ripen.

 

Make your property unwelcoming

  • Once rabbits and hares are used to feeding in an area, all control tactics become less effective. Prevention is the best approach.
  • Remove brush piles, weed patches, rock piles and other debris where rabbits live and hide.
  • Plant rabbit-resistant garden plants such as marigolds, daffodils and snapdragons.
  • Grow herbs that rabbits will not eat, including rosemary, thyme, mint, sage and oregano.
  • A diluted solution of hot sauce (15 millilitres of hot sauce in four to five litres of water) sprayed directly on the fruits and vegetables or around the perimeter of the garden may deter rabbits.
  • Secure the perimeter of decks, sheds and crawl spaces.
  • Motion-sensitive lights, alarms or sprinklers can be used to scare rabbits away.
  • Build a scare device - insert a pole into the ground near the garden and attach a metal garbage lid or pie plates by a string to the post. When the wind blows this will create motion and noise to scare the rabbits.


How Can I Handle a Conflict?

 

If rabbits are feeding on your plants

  • Fences provide the most long-term and effective way to prevent rabbit damage.
  • A metre tall fence, constructed with 2.5 centimetre mesh chicken wire and supported by sturdy stakes every two to three metres, is best.
  • To prevent rabbits from going under a fence, place the bottom of the fence 15 centimetres underground or stake the bottom of the fence flush to the ground.
  • Inspect the fence regularly to make sure animals have not dug or pushed their way under it, or worked their way over it.
  • Newly-planted vegetables can be protected using plastic milk containers that have the bottom cut out.
  • Individual plants can also be protected with a variety of commercially available protectors, including nylon mesh and plastic tubes.

 

Lethal action is a last resort

  • A landowner may humanely kill or trap rabbits that are damaging or about to damage their property. Firearm regulations and bylaws must be followed.
  • You may also hire an agent to act on your behalf. 

 

For more information and assistance…

To locate a local wildlife control agent…
• Speak with your neighbours, family, and friends. Look for "animal control" in your phone book or online.

For information on rabbits…
• Call your local Ministry of Natural Resources office or the Natural Resources Information Centre at 1-800-667-1940.

For information on how to prevent conflicts with rabbits…
• Hinterland Who's Who
• Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PDF, 122 KB)
• Toronto Wildlife Centre

 

 

 

Return to Living with Wildlife - Species Fact Sheets list

 

 

The breeding season for eastern cottontails begins in February and may not end until September. They can produce three or four litters a year of four to five young each.