A Landscape Overrun- Our Ongoing Rabbit Issue

When the problem escalated

There have always been groundhogs, rabbits, moles and voles on the property in healthy numbers. As of three seasons ago however, two local outdoor housecats seemingly disappeared and the absence of their scent, presence and occasional kill has led to a drastic spike in rodent populations.

Is there anything they won’t eat?

In short, No. Even when the foliage of their least favorite plant meal dies back, they gnaw at and ingest the bark if present. As we have currently, an outstanding number of rabbits, they have sampled, and seemingly enjoyed a wide variety of annuals, perennials, shrubs and small trees. They certainly have “favorite” selections, but will dine on almost anything available. Given the nature of our particular landscape, they have at their disposal, a wide variety of plants on which to feast. Where as in the wild, heavy populations would lead to some starvation death, our plants are well cared for and replenished seasonally, if not more often, an unfortunate sustainable and lush food source for our unwanted pests. Some plants we were surprised to find they enjoyed:

Fully mature shrub roses and blooms

Iris foliage

Montauk Daisy


Salvia (pungency is not always a deterrent)




Annual as well as perennial chrysanthemums and asters (listed as noxious rodent deterrents on many reputable databases)

Our failed attempts at eradication

We’ve tried a number of chemical, cultural and mechanical methods to control our rabbit population, none of which have been particularly effective.

Chemically we’ve tried a variety of products, from organic powders containing mixtures of garlic and red pepper, to commercial liquids such as “Bobbex,” and “Plant Skydd” (which contains actual blood and bile). Many of these products advertise months of control. We’ve found that these expensive products aren’t long lasting after application. The rabbits become accustomed to the products containing the more organic substances, and they develop what seems like a tolerance for the more harsh, only avoiding the controlled area for a day or two after the product is applied.

We’ve attempted trapping them using “have a heart” cages. These are simply baited with apples and other edibles and left out in a frequently visited area of the garden, somewhat hidden. We’ve only successfully trapped and relocated a few here and there in the late winter/early spring and the late fall seasons when they are more desperate for food options. Given the populations, the number we have trapped is not enough to make any significant impact.

We are extremely limited in our ability to use fencing on the hill. As the landscape is used aesthetically for tours and other events, we can only use fencing (mesh, netting style) in areas like the cutting garden, which remain out of sight for these events. Even then, we haven’t had much success. Critters have successfully burrowed and trampled fencing to reach desired food sources.

Culturally, we attempt and chose annuals that aren’t as edibly attractive as others. As I noted above however, in the absence of one plant, they will sample, and often enjoy another. We are also limited in that the nature of the gardens encourages variety year after year, and that is to their benefit.

Where are the predators?

While we have speculated what might be leading to the absence of predators- ongoing construction, our vicinity to other heavily wooded/ highly populated prey sites, as well as our strong and almost constant human presence- we do not have any reasoning beyond this speculation as to why not a single fox, coyote, or predatory hawk has set a home up in the surrounding wood line.

What does the future hold?

As we have not been given the ability to utilize our own predators (dog or cat) or been approved to bring on a professional pest control company, we’re left only continuing to research what other methods we might employ. We will continue to apply deterring product and to leave traps out in hopes our luck changes. In the meantime, our fingers are crossed that a fox, coyote or bird of prey will find our cache of rodents and make a home on the hill.