Rabbits have besieged the flower garden at Azalea Manor
bed and breakfast, here in historic Madison. Seen here, the culprit attempting
to hide by holding still. He’s been, "eating my flowers!"
According to the proprietor.
Here he is about to hop away. We can’t tell if he’s a
Sylvilagus Aquaticus also known as the "swamp rabbit" or a
Sylvilagus Floridanus also known as a "cotton tail."
The Swamp Rabbit, found only in the swamp lowlands along the Ohio and
Wabash rivers, spending much of its time up on stumps and logs, although
it swims readily when pursued. The swamp rabbit is actually larger than
the cottontail, reaching almost six pounds.
What’s known as the "Eastern Cottontail," Sylvilagus floridanus,
is found throughout the eastern two-thirds of the US and all the way south through
Mexico. In this range, there are 12 subspecies with only one native to Indiana,
Sylvilagus floridanus mearnsii. The cottontail is reddish brown to gray along the
back and sides, while the underside is gray to white. The underside of the tail is
snow white and is very bright when the rabbit runs, thus the name
The cottontail and it’s tracks have been found in the heart of
the cities, including downtown Indianapolis to the deep forests.
At birth rabbits are born completely helpless, blind, without fur, and weighing
less than an ounce. When rabbits are born their life expectancy is very short, about
4 months. Life expectancy of rabbits change as they get older. That fraction who
survive longer, are expected to live longer. If they survive long enough to leave
the nest, their life expectancy at that time reaches to about 11 months. If they
don’t successfully weather their first winter the odds aren't good. However for
those that do, their life expectancy stretches out to about 3 years.
Warning: Do not attempt to keep or
handle a wild rabbit as a pet. Wild rabbits, nor their progeny, will ever become
docile, or safe to handle. A hind claw to the eye of a child may hurt the rest of
his or her life.
There are "domesticated species" of rabbits legally available, which
behave quite differently. Further you should read about "rabbit’s
re-digestion" before keeping one as a pet, specifically
Rubber snakes and repellents yield mixed results, but would be the
least invasive to your garden plans.
Use half inch mesh wire/cloth/or chicken mesh cut into cylinders
around the plant. It should be forced or buried into the ground to hold upright and
discourage attempts to sneak underneath. Commercial tree guards and wrapping are
To protect an entire garden, use a fence at least 2 feet high of chicken wire or
strong hardware cloth, but with the bottom tight to the ground and buried a
few inches. Be sure the mesh is 1 inch or smaller.
Its suggested to remove brush piles and anything else rabbits might
consider cover near the garden to make fewer areas for rabbits to hide. However this
may not help, since flowers, shrubs, bushes and trees in your garden will likely provide
all the cover they need.
Place a dome or cage of chicken wire over an entire small flower
bed to allow vulnerable plants such as tulips to start growing before leaving them
WARNING: You need a permit to trap or shoot rabbits
from DNR, or you will need to use methods legal only during open hunting
season (firearms can only be used where legal). Cage-traps that don’t
harm the rabbit baited with dried apples or dry ear corn can be effective in capturing