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Minimizing rabbit damage

Where’s Elmer Fudd when you need him?

I love rabbits and enjoy watching them. But that affection comes to a halt if I see them ravaging my plants. They clip off shrub branches at 45-degree angles and the veggies growing in my garden are a sought-after bunny buffet.

Dennis Ferraro is a conservation wildlife biologist at the University of Nebraska. He says the best way to protect your plants from rabbits is to exclude them from the garden. In other words, put a fence around it.

"A piece of hardware cloth, half-inch or one-inch that’s 24-inches, which most of them come in 24-inch rolls, would be the perfect size," he says. "You would just bury it in the soil four-inches, and have it extend above the soil level 20-inches. And that will keep out 90% of the rabbits."

Motion-activation water sprays are an option for perennial flower beds. Ferraro isn’t a huge fan of commercial repellants and says they have less than effective results. Now, I have a cat, and after I brush her I put her fur around my green bean plants – and that seems to work.

"They learn what to fear, and they learn that by being chased. It’s not inherent that the smell of something means I have to get away from here, it’s something that has to be taught to them," says Ferraro. "If you do have a dog or cat, the fur of either of those animals, if those animals ever chase it out of the yard, would become a better repellant than a commercial item that you would buy."

Habitat modification is another tool. Rabbits rely on places that give them cover, so get rid of brush and wood piles, tall weedy areas, and any place you think a bunny would run to. Ferraro recommends putting sharp rocks such as lava rock under a low-lying deck so the rabbits won’t find it a comfy place to hide.

Find more tips on minimizing rabbit damage

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