BOULDER COUNTY – The villains of the summer come, not with snidely whiplash moustaches and an evil laugh, but with floppy ears and oh-so-adorable eyes. Rabbits are overrunning the landscape and are wreaking havoc wherever they plop their fluffy tails.
Rabbits have become one of the most persistent pests on turf along the Front Range, damaging grass, dining on vegetables, or nibbling on shrubs. In many cases, the seemingly innocuous hare is, in reality, a vicious killer rabbit, destroying plantings by nipping off plants at a 45-degree angle, clipping it cleanly through without the ragged tearing left by deer.
They’ll chomp twigs, bark, buds, and flowers, but several plants are favored by bunnies, such as low growing junipers, vegetables, and lawns. If your low-growing juniper is dying, check around the trunk for signs that rabbits have been gnawing the bark. Should you have bare spots in the lawn, especially near edges where cover is close by, suspect rabbits. Look for the tell-tale droppings in the thin lawn.
Several methods for discouraging rabbits can be tried, such as placing a hose on the ground in a way that makes the rabbit think it’s a snake. This often works for me; at least once per season I startle at the sight of a snake, scream, perform my snake dance, then calm down when I realize it’s a hose I left too long in the weedy grass at the edge of the garden.
Another trick is using a motion-activated water sprinkler, which swivels to emit a stream of water and trespassing animals. These sprinklers work fairly well on someone my size, so should help drive off bunnies with a spritz of water.
More effective means for controlling rabbits are fencing and removal of cover. To fence an area off from rabbits, use 48-inch tall, small-mesh chicken wire with openings of less than one-inch. Bury the lower part of the wire six to ten inches deep. If placing this around the fence of a yard, tack the chicken wire to the ground with long, metal, u-shaped pins instead of burying the wire. But check the fence line routinely for signs that the rabbits have breached the defenses, and re-secure the pins.
If fencing the yard is impractical, thwart the rabbits by making them feel exposed. Remove low growing junipers, piles of brush, or stones where rabbits can hide. Around sheds, trailers, or decks, affix wire mesh to create a barrier to keep rabbits from hiding underneath.
Repellents are helpful, but often have an odor that scares away gardeners too. Coyote urine, putrescent eggs, and blood meal can keep rabbits from hanging around, but they need to be reapplied frequently, especially after rain or irrigation. Creating small scarecrows from rabbit sized clothing has not been found by researchers to be an effective deterrent.
By Carol O’Meara, Colorado State University Extension. Colorado State University Extension, together with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, provides unbiased, research-based information about consumer and family issues, horticulture, natural resources, agriculture and 4-H youth development. For more information contact Extension at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Rd., Box B, Longmont, 303.678.6238, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ext.colostate.edu/boulder.