Have you noticed the rabbits? They take over our lawns, hopping from yard to yard, nibbling on vegetation and ruining our grass with their pellet-like droppings. And doesn't it seem like there are more of them than ever?Okay, I might be a little partial to bunny rabbits (my family and I have an adorable pet lop-eared rabbit named Addie). But that doesn't stop me from understanding what pests the wild rabbits can be for the typical homeowner! My grandma even bought herself a toy plastic dart gun in hopes of stunning the rabbits and deterring them from camping out in her garden. But what do we really know about these quickly-multiplying neighbors of ours? According to the Colorado Wild Rabbit Foundation, our state is home to eight different kinds of rabbits: the American Pika, Snowshoe Hare, Black-tailed Jackrabbit, White-tailed Jackrabbit, Desert Cottontail, Mountain Cottontail, Eastern Cottontail, and the Pygmy Rabbit. The cottontails are the ones we see the most of here in the city. They don't usually live longer than two years and are already considered adults at the age of three months. But have you ever heard the phrase "breeding like rabbits"? Here's why they have a crazy reputation:
A female rabbit (called a doe) can start reproducing at three to four months of age and then produce between four and seven litters per year of about six babies (called kittens or kits) each. That's a whopping potential offspring of 42 kits per year! In fact, a doe could be continuously pregnant for up to eight months (each gestation period lasts about 31 days). No wonder the rabbits are taking over our state! Some simple multiplication leads to some astronomical figures, assuming that the kits don't get devoured by predators -- which often happens. [gallery columns="2" size="full" ids="20794,20793"] To stay healthy, rabbits require 55 percent water content in their diet, and they generally eat grass, leaves, buds, tree bark, roots, and (unfortunately) garden products such as lettuce, cabbage, root vegetables, and grains. They live together in groups of two to 10, within a larger network of burrows and connecting tunnels called a warren. It's hard to imagine, but warrens can get up to hundreds of yards in length! Just think about the interconnecting tunnels under your neighborhood. Crazy! The thing is, if given free rein, rabbits can cause real havoc on lawns and gardens -- and even cars. Back in 2013, travelers who parked their cars at DIA reported returning to their vehicles to find that bunnies had chewed through their ignition cables! Mechanics began coating wires with coyote urine as a repellant. As for rabbit-damaged lawns, it's recommended that homeowners flush out the rabbit urine by watering more. To get the grass to re-grow, you can try increased fertilization and possibly even reseed or re-sod those areas. Also, try to make your property as least hospitable as possible, keeping brush and bushes trimmed back, thus eliminating areas that are easy for rabbits to hide in. Whatever you do, don't touch a wild rabbit or its feces with your bare hands. Don't even walk through your yard barefoot if you know you have rabbits prowling about. Sick or dead rabbits can carry rabbit fever (tularemia) and hantavirus, both of which can also be dangerous to humans. If you come across a young litter in a nest, simply rebuild it the way you found it, and the mother rabbit should return to care for her young. You can always call the Colorado Wild Rabbit Foundation for advice, or a simple Google search will turn up several options for humane rabbit removal if a situation is getting out of hand!
And when all else fails, you can always handle your rabbit issue with a sense of humor:
But truthfully, rabbits can't be all that bad, right? I mean, look ... That's Addie, in all her fluffy glory (below). My daughter adopted her from the Denver Dumb Friends League last year, and she is precious! But I may be a bit partial. At first, my family thought we were crazy to adopt a rabbit, but everyone's come around in the end. There's a big difference between a domesticated bunny and a wild one trying to survive in your yard, after all. What do you think? Do you have a rabbit issue in your neighborhood? Do you have any advice for how to keep them from taking over? Tell us in the comments!