While rabbits may seem cute and fuzzy, the common rabbit or eastern cottontail can do considerable damage to flowers, vegetables, trees and shrubs any time of the year in places ranging from suburban yards to rural fields and tree plantations.
Controlling rabbits is often necessary to reduce damage, but complete extermination is not necessary, desirable or even possible.
No toxicants or fumigants are registered for use against rabbits. There are, however, chemical repellents available at local garden centers that may discourage rabbit browsing.
Repellents should be applied before rabbit-inflicted damage occurs and after a rain, heavy dew or the occurrence of new plant growth. If rabbits have already started feeding, their attraction to what they have been eating will most likely overcome their fear of the repellent.
Habitat modification and exclusion techniques provide long-term, non-lethal control. Remove dense, heavy vegetative cover, brush piles, weed patches and stone piles in or adjacent to the landscape.
Fencing made from chicken wire, with less than 1-inch mesh, can be placed around herbaceous plants. The fence must be at least 2-feet high and the bottom must be buried at least 3-inches deep. Quarter-inch wire hardware cloth made into 18- to 24-inch cylinders and buried at least 3 inches will protect trunks of young orchard trees or woody landscape plants.
In the winter months, live animal traps can be baited with corncobs, oats, dried apples or rabbit droppings. Traps can be bought at garden centers, hardware stores or from gardening catalogs. Place the traps where rabbits have been feeding or resting and close to suitable cover.
If the trap fails to catch any rabbits within a week, move the trap to a different location.
For more information about managing wildlife in the garden, search for wildlife on extension.uga.edu/publications.