Rabbits are out in force

Farm Forum

Brookings – Rabbits are out in force, says John Ball, Professor and SDSU Extension Forestry Specialist.

“You may have noticed the bark missing from the lower trunks of young trees. When I walked through several shelterbelts last week every tree and shrub was cut off at about 1-foot as cleanly as if someone came by with a pair of hand pruners,” Ball said.

Ball reminds readers that rabbits can chew bark off of larger trees up to a height of 18 to 20 inches above the snow line, any chewing that is done under the snow line is usually done by voles or mice.

“The damage is most common to trees such as crabapples, apples, honeylocust and maples,” he said. “Shrub damage is usually entire twigs or stems cut cleanly at a 45-degree angle. You’ll often find small brown droppings on the snow near these plants.”

To avoid this problem, Ball says the best method is to remove any hiding cover; brush and woodpiles, which are perfect habitat for rabbits. He encourages homeowners to fence off valuable shrub beds using chicken wire that is at least 3 feet tall.

“That is 3 feet above the snow line and tight with the ground. However, it is probably a little late to begin thinking about fencing at this point,” Ball said. “But, it might not be too late to apply some repellents during some of the warmer January days.”

Ball explains that repellents work one of two ways, either as odor, usually mimicking the odor of a predator (usually their urine), or taste/irritation, such as capsaicin (think of hot peppers).

“Usually repellents based on odor are more effective than taste/irritation but not always, so it never hurts to experiment a little bit,” he said.

Finally, Ball says not to live trap rabbits.

“No one else wants them either and most animals that are released in unfamiliar territory have a very short life span,” Ball said.

For more updates and information on controlling rabbits visit the Pest Update at http://sdda.sd.gov/