The Desert Cottontail Rabbit is found throughout the western United States. In areas of desert without human habitation, their numbers are controlled by many predators, including snakes, bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions, and birds of prey, as well as limits in the amount of food available.
In areas inhabited by humans, it’s an entirely different story. Cottontails find living in rural, farming, and even some residential areas “the easy life.” An abundance of hay fed to livestock, grains, fallen fruit, and plants make for an appetizing and nutritious menu.
When cottontails are well fed, they average 5 litters of young per year, with each litter having up to 12 kits. At 3 months of age, the kits are full-grown. Even in rural residential areas, cottontails have less predators, and populations can quickly spiral out of control.
When cottontails are in need of food, they can cause tremendous damage to gardens, shrubs, and young trees. Many plants are eaten to the ground, while trees are subject to “girdling.” The lower part of the tree trunk’s bark is chewed off and eaten. As a result, the tree dies.
While cottontails are certainly cute, the damage they cause when populations explode is anything but adorable. An overpopulation of rabbits soon runs out of sufficient food sources, and as a result, they turn to any source of vegetation they can find.
Another concern with an overabundance of rabbits are the diseases that they carry, several of which are transmissible to humans and may remain viable in the soil for months. The wildlife diseases cottontail rabbits carry, and are of significance are Hantavirus, Leptospirosis, Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis (LCMV), Salmonella and Tularemia.
If your property is suffering due to rabbit damage, we’re here to help!