colorado rabbit epidemic

Rabbit Epidemic

Have you seen all of the rabbits in Colorado Springs? They seem to be anywhere you look, hopping around our backyards, eating from our garden and leaving droppings behind that kill the grass. It seems to me that there are more rabbits than ever and I’m sure that you would agree – maybe a rabbit epidemic?

The Colorado Wild Rabbit Foundation said that there are 8 different rabbit types in Colorado, the snowshoe hare, American pika, Whitetail jackrabbit, black-tailed jackrabbit, desert cottontail, Eastern cottontail, Mountain cottontail, and let’s not forget the pygmy rabbit. When you look in your backyard, you are probably seeing cottontail rabbits. They have a lifespan that doesn’t typically last more than two years and by the time they are three months old, they can be considered an adult. More than likely, you have heard somebody say the term “breeding like rabbits” and that is a reputation they have earned.

Rabbits Breed Fast

The doe, which is the female rabbit, is able to start reproducing by the time she is three months of age. Each year, she can have up to seven litters of 6 babies (kits or kittens) each. When you do the math, you see that annually, a doe can have up to 42 kits! What is even more alarming is the fact that a doe can continue to get pregnant one time after another until she is eight months old. Each gestation period is 31 days.

It is little wonder that rabbits are everywhere in Colorado! When you do even more math, the numbers are mind-blowing and the only reason that we don’t see even more of them is that they often get eaten by predators.

When you see a bunny in the landscape, it doesn’t look all that cute when it is eating a mouthful of your flowers. More plants seem to be disappearing this year thanks to rabbits. Why is this becoming an even greater problem?

Since there are more rabbits, they have less area in which to live and less native vegetation to eat. That is why they are now adapting to live and eat in our space. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they will overrun your yard but you will see more plants disappear, including some that have always been considered rabbit resistant. At one time, it wasn’t necessary for them to eat those species or in those areas that are typically considered human habitat but now, they don’t have a choice.

Rabbits Like The Younger Garden Plants

When it comes to new plants, rabbits consider them to be a delicacy. Consider the fact that even humans like younger plants, such as baby carrots. Therefore, when you put a new plant out in your yard, it is even more appealing to rabbits. In fact, if our younger plants are able to grow, they will be less appealing to the rabbits.

Keep in mind that rabbits will try a plant a few times, even if they don’t necessarily find it to be delicious when they first try it. That is why new landscapes often seem to be a particular target. You could consider it to be like laying out a buffet dinner and if it is in the right spot, the rabbits will be there for it.

Home Remedies To Stop Rabbit Damage

All of this may be interesting to you but you might be wondering what you can do to keep them from enjoying your backyard as if it were their dinner plate. Quite honestly, you cannot stop rabbits from eating but you can do things to slow them down. There are even some products on the market that claim to produce that result but they are often met with limited success.

The following 3 home remedies, however, are well worth trying:

  • Water down your foliage with a soapy mixture rather than straight water. This may make your plants less desirable but it needs to be applied often and each time after it rains.
  • Rabbits may also adapt their taste so that the soap doesn’t bother them so you may want to add a little cayenne pepper into the mix on occasion. When you put it directly in the soapy water before spraying your plants, it will stick to the leaves.
  • Peppermint oil may also be used when you are spraying young plants. You do need to be cautious that you don’t burn the leaves with cayenne or peppermint oil, so use it cautiously.

As a method of last resort, wire mesh can be used around your plants to help protect them while they are in their tender stage. The mesh should be at least 6 inches from the plant and 8 inches tall to prevent the rabbits from getting at the leaves and eating them. If you surround a grouping of plants with wire mesh, make it taller because the rabbits may be able to jump in from a nearby area or plant and eat what is on the inside.