The University of Arizona Maricopa County Cooperative Extension Home Horticulture:
Environmentally Responsible
Gardening & Landscaping in the Low Desert

Rabbit Management in the Home Garden
in the Low Desert

Vine Rule

The first, and probably best, defense against rabbit damage to gardens is physical exclusion. Gardens should be fenced with wire mesh at least 30 inches above ground and buried at least 3 inches below ground with the bottom turned outward. Mesh size should not be greater than 1 inch. Woven or net wire works best -- poultry net will exclude rabbits but larger animals will destroy it more easily than the stronger woven type fencing. Remember to construct sturdy, close fitting gates with buried fencing below sills under each gate. (as pointed out in the movie "Phenomenon" - don't fence the rabbits *in*) In some situations, it may be more practical to protect individual plants rather than fencing an entire area. Individual plants and young trees can be protected by constructing a woven wire cylinder, at least 18 inches high around the plant and 2-3 inches below the ground surface. Fencing should be inspected regularly for damage.

Habitat Modification
Altering rabbit habitat in the vicinity of the garden can do much to alleviate the problem. Remove brush piles, control weeds and in general control debris and other places that offer cover and nesting sights. Clean up fallen seed from bird feeders.

There are several commercial repellents that discourage rabbits. Many of these repellents contain the fungicide "Thriam". Many chemical repellent are not to be used on plants or plant parts destined for human consumption. ALWAYS exactly follow label directions for any chemical repellent.

There are no toxicants registered, in Arizona, for use on rabbits in the home garden.

Trapping (See legal status below)
Live trapping can be an effective way to remove cottontail rabbits. Jackrabbits are very difficult to live trap because they are reluctant to enter small entrances. Wire type live traps are available at most hardware and feed stores. Traps may also be available for rent from local county animal control or commercial pest control companies. Traps should be placed were the rabbits are feeding or resting and close to cover. Traps may be more effective when covered with a tarp, blanket, feed sacks, etc. to make the entrance look more like a dark hole. Bait traps with food similar to what the rabbits are eating. Some good baits are rolled up cabbage leaves, alfalfa, carrots and other fresh green vegetables. It is best to set traps in the evening and check them in the morning. Be sure to check traps often, at least every day.

Trapped rabbits should be released several miles from where they were trapped and in a rural area where they will not create a problem for someone else. (See legal status below)

There are several commercial products available such as inflatable owls, snakes and eyespot balloons to frighten a variety of pest species. These may work for a short time but in most cases the animal habituate to the product and they are no longer effective.

There are many "home remedies" for rabbit control that some people "swear to" and others swear at these include short pieces of garden hose placed on the ground to resemble snakes or large clear glass containers filled with water placed about to terrify rabbits by their own distorted reflection. Another popular method is placing net bags (or panty hose) filled with human hair (or other predator such as dog, cat, coyote, etc.) on the ground or tied to short posts around the garden.

Shooting (See legal status below)
Shooting can be an effective means of rabbit control. However, make sure local laws permit shooting and that it is done safely. In Arizona it is unlawful to discharge a firearm within 1/4 mile of an occupied dwelling or building without the permission of the owner or resident. It is generally unlawful to discharge a firearm within city (or other incorporated areas) limits. Some local ordinances also prohibit the use of air guns, BB guns, slingshots and bows.

Legal Status
Cottontail rabbits are classified as small game animals and the open season is year-round. A class F,G or H hunting license is required to shoot cottontails. In a case where cottontails are causing damage they may be "taken" by live trapping or lethal removal without a hunting license if a depredation permit is obtained from the local Arizona Game and Fish (AGF) Regional Office. Before relocating a live-trapped rabbit, AGF should be contacted for an approved release site. Private persons and some pest control companies hold "Wildlife Service Permits" issued by AGF. These people will pick up and trap nuisance rabbit, usually for a fee. Jack rabbits are classified as nongame animals, but a class F,G or H hunting license is required to take them. The season on jackrabbits is year-round. Live trapping of jackrabbits is unlikely to be successful.

Plants which are less attractive to rabbits in the low desert

References on Wildlife Pest Management

Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage, by Hygnstrom, S., Timm R. M., Larson, G.(1994), Lincoln: University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension, USDA_APHIS-Wildlife Services Animal Damage Control, and Great Plains Agricultural Council. Sample chapter on cottontail rabbits in pdf format. (Slow to load but worth the wait.)

To Gardening & Landscaping in Maricopa County, AZ

Rabbit Management in the Home Garden in the Low Desert University of Arizona Logo

visitors since April 13, 1998 Last Updated March 7, 1999
© 1998 The University of Arizona, College of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension, in Maricopa County
Author: Lawrence M. Sullivan, Extension Specialist, Natural Resources, School of Renewable Natural Resources, 325 Bio-Sciences East, The University of Arizona Tucson, AZ 85721, E-Mail
Comments to Lucy Bradley, 4341 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix, AZ 85040, (602) 470-8086 ext. 323