Rabbits are wreaking havoc for some Arvada residents, adding to an influx of calls for help to the The City of Arvada’s Animal Management Bureau. Dozens of inquiries have been received on how to keep these cottontails out of gardens and landscaped yards.
Two factors are contributing to the spike in the local rabbit population this season. “First the natural predator population, the fox, is down due to an outbreak of the mange last year. This drove their numbers down,” stated Becky Robison, Animal Management Supervisor for the City of Arvada. “Combine this with the second factor of good weather providing more food for the rabbits, and you see the birth and survival rates go up.”
In an effort to aid Arvada residents struggling to protect their gardens from rabbits, the Animal Management Bureau offers these tips:
Construct a rabbit-proof fence of woven wire or two-inch poultry netting, two and a half to three feet high. This can be placed around gardens, flower beds or other places where protection is needed. Due to cost of the fencing materials, this method usually is feasible only in small areas.
To prevent burrowing beneath a fence, attach a three-foot wide heavy gauge wire mesh screen to the bottom of the fence so it extends 24 inches outward. Secure the screen to the ground with garden staples and back fill over the mesh with rock mulch. Individual trees or shrubs can be protected by wrapping sheet metal or hardware cloth around the base of the tree/shrub. The sheet metal or hardware cloth should encircle the trunk completely and should be one to two inches away from the trunk to allow for the natural growth of the tree/shrub.
Rabbits Eating Plants
Barriers for Flowers and Vegetables: A well-constructed fence is the most effective way to protect plants. Two-foot high chicken wire supported by posts every six to eight feet is strong enough to keep rabbits out. Stake the bottom securely to the ground.
Barriers for Trees: Commercial tree wrap or plastic tree guards can keep rabbits from nibbling bark. Cylinders of hardware cloth or poultry wire also work. These barriers should be as high as usual snow depth plus eighteen inches. Young trees and saplings are more vulnerable since rabbits may reach low-hanging branches. Prune and leave the trimmings on the ground away from valued trees as a decoy food. Rabbits prefer twigs and buds to the bark of the trunk and will eat these instead if they are easy to reach.
Repellents: In some places, fencing won't be practical. Chemical repellents can protect small plots and individual plants. Don't use a repellent on plants that people will eat unless the label specifies it is safe to do so. Most garden centers will help you pick out the product that is best suitable for your situation.
Scare Devices: Scare tape or balloons may frighten rabbits away from an area. The pinwheels sold to repel moles might provide a look scary to rabbits as well.
Habitat Modification: Remove cover (vine thickets, tall grass, and shrub cover) around gardens and orchards so rabbits don't have escape cover. They will spend less time (and eat less food) where they feel unsafe. Think, however, about the potential negative effects on other species that could benefit from a naturalized back yard.
Home Remedy: Most home remedies including a piece of rubber hose on the ground to look like a snake or large, clear glass jars of water to distort reflections often aren’t effective in deterring rabbits. Inflatable owls and snakes, eyespot balloons, and other commercial products are readily available in garden centers and through mail order catalogues.