Rabbits & Hares

About Rabbits and Hares

White-tailed Jack Rabbit
  • In Alberta, there are mountain cottontail rabbits, snowshoe hares, white-tailed jackrabbits (a type of hare) and a variety of domestic rabbit breeds.
  • Wild rabbits are grey to brown all year and hares are grey to brown in summer and white in winter.
  • Domestic rabbits can be differentiated from wild rabbits by the variety of colours and sizes and are not protected by any of Alberta’s wildlife laws.
  • Hare populations tend to peak every 10 years.
  • Rabbits normally live only 12 to 15 months and in that time have approximately three litters of up to six young. In the city, rabbit and hare populations are kept in check by vehicles, weather, predators and other mortality factors.
  • In summer, rabbits and hares normally consume a diet of grasses and forbs and in the winter eat the buds, twigs and bark of shrubs and trees.
  • Hares can consume up to 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of green vegetation in one day.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can rabbits and hares be a nuisance to people?

  • Rabbits and hares may nibble at flowers and vegetables in the summer and damage woody landscape plants in the winter.

What can I do about the rabbits and hares on my property?

  • Removing individual hares and rabbits will only leave a vacancy for others to fill. To prevent wildlife from visiting your property, you must remove the food or shelter the animals are seeking.
  • Removing shelter:
    • Find the shelter the rabbits and hares are using. Look for places that may provide a covered, quiet place for a hare or rabbit to hide, such as under decks and patios and in holes under sheds and garages.
    • Once the rabbit or hare has left, cover these openings with a durable wire mesh. Ensure the wire mesh is buried at least 15 centimetres (6 inches) deep to prevent the animal from digging underneath.
    • Clear away brush piles, weed patches and other debris that may provide shelter.
  • Removing food sources:
    • Commercial repellents to discourage rabbits and hares from eating plants and flowers are available from garden supply or hardware stores.
      • Some repellents are poisonous and will require safe storage and use.
      • Most repellents are not to be used on plants that are for human consumption.
      • Always follow manufacturer’s instructions closely and re-apply after a rainfall.
    • The effectiveness of commercial repellents varies and depends on the number and behaviour of the animals, as well as the availability of alternative food sources. Few alternate food sources with high numbers of rabbits or hares result in more competition for food, making them more likely to continue eating the repellent-treated plants.
    • Adding fencing around trees, shrubs, flower beds and vegetable gardens can help prevent damage from the hares and rabbits. To ensure it cannot be reached through, jumped over or dug beneath, the fence should:
      • Be made of wire mesh less than 3.8 centimetres (1 ½ inches)
      • Stand one metre (three feet) high, with at least 15 centimetres (6 inches) buried below ground level
    • To keep trees protected during winter when other food sources are scarce:
      • Be sure fencing stands tall enough to be too high for the rabbit or hare to reach over when standing on packed snow
      • Ensure the fence is at least six inches away from the tree so the rabbit or hare can’t reach through the mesh or lean on it to reach the tree
  • If you are concerned about domestic rabbits that are loose in your community, contact your local animal control agency or humane society.

Contact

Call a Fish and Wildlife officer if you need specific advice on rabbit or hare problems on your property, or to discuss removal techniques.

To find contact information for a Fish and Wildlife office near you, see:

Related Information

For more information on the species in Alberta:

The Agriculture and Rural Development website offers information for agricultural producers to help manage conflicts with rabbits and hares. See:

To download in-depth information about the control of jackrabbits and other hares from The Handbook: Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage, published by the University of Nebraska, see:

 

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Updated: Feb 20, 2014