Rain means more weeds and poppies, more weeds means more insects and rabbits.
When we say rabbits, we are talking about cottontail rabbits. Cottontails are mainly active from dusk to mid-morning, finding a shady hiding place during the day. Over the years the cottontails have become a bigger problems. They have adapted to live in town as well as in the desert. In town they do not need to worry about rainfall and native plants to eat; they eat our gardens.
A cottontail’s favorite food includes roses, carrots, geraniums, lettuce and lawn grasses. They also like a good snack of marigolds, pansies, peas, strawberries and young bulb shoots. Cottontails will also peel and eat the bark of young fruit trees. Most of my apple trees have severe rabbit damage where the rabbits have eaten the bark off the trees.
One of the best methods of controlling rabbits is to discourage them or make a barrier to prevent the cottontails from attacking your special plants. The best barrier is using a chicken wire fence with holes less than 1½ inches in size. Hardware cloth works even better, but is much more expensive.
The fence should be at least 2 feet tall with at least 6 inches of the fence buried in the ground. If you bury the fence even deeper, about 12 inches, you can also discourage gophers. Surround special plants, fruit trees and your entire garden to protect the plants. At school we built a 3 feet tall block wall completely around the garden to prevent rabbits.
Fruit trees and young fruit trees can be wrapped with commercial tree wrap, burlap, aluminum foil or window screen to prevent the rabbits from eating the bark. It is best to remove the tree wraps in spring to prevent attacks by twig borers.
Another control method is to use rabbit repellents. One of the best repellents is a dog or cat, either can keep the rabbits scared off. There are several commercial rabbit repellents on the market. These repellents normally need to be reapplied after each rain. Blood meal, vinegar and garlic all have been reported to repel cottontails.
In any case, it is best to remove daytime cover that the rabbits hide in during the day. Places like woodpiles, under buildings in storage areas and in overgrown junipers or other plants.
There is not one good answer to controlling rabbits. It is a management technique of discouraging the cottontails from living in your landscape, protecting special plants or areas like gardens. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence and that is what you want the rabbits to believe.