MANHATTAN, Kan. — Rabbits can be both living decor and a nibbling pest in home landscapes.
“They’re a perennial problem because of the wide variety of plants they’ll feed on. But, they can cause real harm at this time of year. They love the tender tissues of many young plants,” said Ward Upham, MasterGardener program coordinator for Kansas State University Research and Extension.
Wild rabbits also can be a human health hazard, Upham warned. In fact, rabbit fever is the common name for tularemia, a serious bacterial disease. Ticks and deer flies are carriers of tularemia, too.
Many states have a year-long open hunting season with bag limits for rabbits. Even so, gun use is rarely safe or legal in populated areas, Upham said.
Once rabbits are firmly established somewhere, removing a few will just make room for others to move in, he said. So, controlling problem rabbits often comes down to creating barriers.
“Fencing is a quick and effective control method. It doesn’t have to be permanent, and it doesn’t need to be tall — 18 to 24 inches high is sufficient,” Upham said.
“But, it must be staked to the ground or buried several inches deep to keep rabbits from burrowing under. The supports must be sturdy, too, and the mesh must be sufficiently fine — 1 inch or less — so rabbits can’t go through the fence, either.”
Other options. Upham added that where fencing isn’t an acceptable choice, other options may help:
• Repellents are most useful for small areas because they tend to require frequent reapplications.
“If you’re protecting vegetables, read labels carefully before buying. Many repellents are poisonous, so can’t be used on plants or plant parts destined for human consumption,” he said.
• Protective tubes, wraps and/or netting are generally practical only for sapling trees and seedlings.
• Live traps are typically most useful in winter, but a number of baits are available. And, the trap itself can serve as a human-protecting carrier while relocating captured rabbits to a rural area.
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