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How and Why Rabbits Damage Your Lawn

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Many people love rabbits and even keep them as pets. It’s easy to see why. The shy little guys are adorable, especially when they have babies, and, as a symbol of spring, they seem quite appropriate and thematic this time of year. Right up until they make themselves at home and your lawn and start damaging it. Despite their petite size and cute, cuddly appearance, these little herbivores can quickly and easily wreak havoc on a lawn and garden, and their ability to reproduce so quickly makes this damage grow exponentially the longer it goes own. A cute rabbit family can quickly become a quick rabbit problem.

Damage Caused by Wild Rabbits

Their ravenous appetites make rabbits disastrous for many types of vegetation, particularly close to the ground and in areas close to uncultivated lands, like those found near greenbelts, parks, and residential areas. These uncultivated areas provide places for rabbits to rest and hide near food sources like your lawn and garden.

Rabbits aren’t picky eaters and will consume and destroy a wide variety of vegetation, but do have some favorites, including but not limited to:

● Vegetable plants, like beans, beets, broccoli, carrot, lettuce, and peas
● Fruits and nuts, such as almonds, apples, blackberries, cherries, citrus fruits, pistachios plums, raspberries, and strawberries
● Herbs like cilantro and parsley
● Ornamental plants including a wide variety of flowers, shrubs, trees, and turf types

In addition, rabbits can be destructive by gnawing through plastic irrigation lines, particularly the small diameter varieties. They may also gnaw on young trees’ thin bark, but the thick, rough bark of older trees is too difficult for them to sink their teeth into. This gnawing can girdle the tree (completely remove the bark from a ring around the tree). If this occurs around the trunk, this terminally damages the plant, but in the case of branches or shoots, the damaged limb can simply be removed.

A rabbit problem can be reason for concerns because of other issues as well. Rabbits sometimes carry a disease called tularemia, or rabbit fever, but this disease is relatively rare in humans. It can be contracted by handling an infected rabbit with bare hands or consuming under cooked rabbit meat. As rabbits can also carry rabies, it’s generally recommended to avoid handling wild rabbits.

Dealing with a Rabbit Problem

Thankfully rabbits, though annoying and damaging, are also totally manageable.

First, make your lawn and garden less appealing by removing attractions for rabbits. Trim low hanging branches that can provide shelter to rabbits from trees, shrubs, and bushes. Keep rabbits out of sheds and out from underneath decks or porches by blocking holes and openings, or out of your yard in general by putting up fencing. You may also want to block rabbits from coming near water features. Make sure fencing is at least three feet high and six inches deep into the ground to avoid having rabbits hope over or tunnel under.

Either remove plants that attract rabbits, or take steps to protect them. You can replace plants that rabbits love with plants that they don’t. Big periwinkle and bougainvillea are great ground cover plants, while birch and alder trees can provide shade that rabbits won’t enjoy. You don’t have to sacrifice color with shrub options like rhododendron and camellia, which can be particularly effective with both perennial and annual plants like goat weed, impatiens, verbena, Echinacea, honeysuckle, and Mexican marigolds.

If you’d rather keep your existing landscaping, you can put up barriers around plants that seem to be particular favorites, and hardware cloth wrapped around the base of a tree can protect the bark. Fertilizer containing blood or bone meal repels herbivores like rabbits and for improved effectiveness you can also add in other repellents like cayenne pepper, human or pet hair, kitty litter, coffee grounds, and manure. Cats and dogs can scare rabbits away, but a decoy predator can also be effective. A variety of effective electronic repellents can be purchased. While these will drive away your rabbit problem and many other pest species, they can also repel wanted wildlife, like songbirds, and can bother pets. Traps for catch and release are also available, but because of animal release laws and the possible dangers associated with handling a wild animal, even an adorable rabbit, using these traps is not recommended.

Pest Prevention and Lawn Recovery

If you are struggle with a rabbit problem, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Since we started in 1979, Lawnscape Systems, Inc. has been one of southern California’s leaders in lawn care. Whether you’re interested in one of our two lawn care programs or any of the many additional lawn care services that we offer, including pest management and comprehensive lawn restoration and recovery, Lawnscape can help any lawn and lawn caregiver. No matter how much work you want to put into your lawn, Lawnscape can ensure you get the most out. And because we only use the highest quality EPA certified products, you can feel safe knowing that any products we apply are safe for the environment and for your family. Contact Lawnscape Systems today!

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