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Rabbits can be a nuisance in our yards and gardens because they eat plants, including grasses, vegetable plants such as lettuce, peas and beans, and other common landscape plants. Rabbits aren’t the only culprit when plants are being damaged, but you can tell the difference between rabbits and deer eating greenery by taking a close look at what’s left behind. Plants eaten by rabbits will have clean, 45-degree cuts where the flower heads and buds or small stems were bit off, Wildlife Illinois reports. You may also see gnawing on stems and bark from woody plants in winter. Deer don’t have sharp teeth like rabbits, so they do not make clean cuts. Damage caused by rabbits can be confused with that from squirrels and voles, however.
If rabbits are causing problems in your yard or garden, you can try installing wire mesh fencing around vulnerable areas. A 4-foot-wide roll is enough to keep rabbits out; look for mesh with 1-inch square openings or smaller, Wildlife Illinois advises. When installing the fencing, fan out the bottom 6 inches, facing away from your garden bed, to prevent rabbits from crawling or burrowing underneath.
If rabbits are damaging trunks of small or young trees and shrubs, try wrapping them in wire mesh fencing with ¼-inch square openings. On trees, the mesh should reach at least 1 foot above expected snow depth for a typical winter. Take care not to wrap it too tightly or it may interfere with growth, according to Wildlife Illinois.
Cottontail rabbit nests can also sometimes be problematic in our yards, especially for pet owners. Young rabbits are left alone and are vulnerable to attacks from cats and dogs as well as other predators. If you have a rabbit nest in your yard, take care to keep pets away from it until the babies leave the nest, Wildlife Illinois reports. It’s also a good idea to check your yard for potential nests before cutting the grass. Remember that finding baby rabbits alone is normal and no cause for concern. Mothers only visit their nests once or twice a day.
If animals on your property continue to cause damage after corrective measures have been taken, consider humanely removing and relocating them only as a last resort. Trapping a rabbit to remove it from your property requires a permit from IDNR. If you do not want to remove it yourself, contact a licensed wildlife control operator to contract their services.
All wildlife in Illinois are under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The Forest Preserve District of Will County does not treat, rescue or remove wildlife from public or private property. Both the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Wildlife Illinois maintain lists of wildlife rehabilitators you can contact for assistance with injured wildlife.
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