Cottontail Rabbit Control
Missouri's landscaped yards provide excellent rabbit habitat, and this accounts for the prevalence of cottontails in most suburban and urban areas.
Rabbit-proof fences offer practical and inexpensive protection for small areas of high value plants. You can exclude rabbits from vegetable and flower gardens, nurseries and ornamental plants with an 18 to 24 inch high fence of 1-inch mesh galvanized wire. Temporary posts are satisfactory. The bottom edge of wire must be carefully staked to the ground, or buried several inches, to prevent rabbits from burrowing under the fence. Well maintained fences offer assurance that rabbits will be excluded during the period the plants require protection. Tree trunk guards are effective in preventing rabbit damage to individual trees and shrubs. Cylinders of 1/4-inch mesh hardware cloth 18 to 24 inches high, set into the ground surrounding the trunk, will help prevent gnawing damage to the main stem. Multi-stemmed shrubs should be encircled with hardware cloth or 1-inch mesh wire. Commercial tree wraps and plastic guards are available from garden and horticultural supply stores, and the wire cylinders and tree wraps will prevent gnawing damage from both rabbits and meadow mice. Guards and wraps are not effective when snow depth is greater than the height of the wire or wrap.
Shooting may be used where local laws permit the discharge of firearms. Hunting can be a useful method for landowners to control rabbit numbers.
Live trapping may be of some help in removing individual animals causing damage. However, the effectiveness of summer trapping is limited because of the number of young rabbits produced and the difficulty of baiting rabbits into traps when alternative foods are abundant. Winter live trapping, especially during periods of snow, may be more effective because food is limited. Areas showing constant rabbit activity such as tracks or gnawing on woody plants are logical places to set live traps. Metal live traps are available from some farm and garden supply stores. Wood box traps can be constructed easily. Apples are suitable baits.
Rabbit repellents are usually a less-than-satisfactory method of protecting plants from rabbit damage. Legal pesticide limitations prevent the use of most repellents on gardens and crops. Restrictions on the labels of nearly all rabbit repellents limit their use primarily to woody plants during in the winter season when rabbits are likely to gnaw bark and clip twigs. Winter rains and snows erode and dilute the repellents applied to dormant woody plants. Such woody plants as ornamental trees and shrubs, orchard fruit trees and nursery stock can be protected effectively by fencing, tree guards, or wraps. These mechanical methods ensure protection with less cost, time and trouble than repellents. If repellents are used, they must be applied as directed on the label, with particular attention to dilution, application rates and repeat treatments.