Wild rabbits spend winter outside even in the coldest temperatures. It’s amazing how these docile creatures survive harsh winters. As a matter of fact, people ask me all the time about how wild rabbits live in the winter. So, where do wild rabbits live during the winter? Wild rabbits don’t hibernate like other small mammals. They live in the same area all year round, but during the colder months, they forage for food. They will find shelter under a shed, or in a hollow log-any place that can help keep them warm. Their fur thickens which helps keep them cozy all winter long. All in all, wild rabbits survive cold, harsh winters fairly easily.
Where Do Wild Rabbits Live? Wild Rabbits live underground. Typically those underground habitats are situated in meadows, woods, forests, grasslands, deserts and even wetlands. As a group, the burrows that those rabbits create are called a warren.
Do Wild Rabbits Hibernate?
Hibernation is when an animal or plants spends an extended period of time in a dormant state. Wild rabbits don’t hibernate during the winter. They’re active all winter looking for food. Animals that do hibernate include:
- Box turtles
- Garter snakes
- Bumble bees
- Wood frogs
- Ground squirrels
- Butterflies and moths
- Lady bugs
Where Do Wild Rabbits Live In The Winter?
During the winter, wild rabbits find shelter in the same place they do during the summer, spring and fall. In fact, they live their entire short life in one small area only. They’re territorial animals, preferring to stay in one place. If they’re in the back yard, they might dig under a shed or under a thick fur tree for shelter.They sometimes burrow holes, or find a little spot under heavy brush piles, hollow logs or even rock piles. Once they’re sheltered, they can generate enough warmth. They like to stay huddle up most of the time, occasionally venturing out to forage for food and to drink water.
What Do Rabbit Eat In the Winter?
Rabbits eat anything green. During the warmer months, they eat weeds, grasses, clover, wildflowers, flowers and vegetables. When it’s cold outside, they turn to left overs like fallen fruit, grasses, and other remaining green plants. Once the snow falls, it gets harder to find green plants.The wild rabbits eat twigs, bark from trees, pine needles. They’ll even dig under the snow looking for grass or plants. Some homeowners said they’ve seen wild rabbits eating bird seed that’s fallen from their bird feeder. With enough food, a wild rabbit’s body fat builds up and their fur thickens. These things combined with good shelter help wild rabbits survive easily during the winter.
Where Do Wild Rabbits Get Water In The Winter?
Rabbits are resourceful. If it’s a really cold winter with lots of snow, the wild rabbits will simply eat snow for hydration. If there’s no snow, and it’s cold enough to freeze lakes and ponds, wild rabbits will hunt for food. Even a small bit of water that’s collected is enough for them to drink. Depending upon where the rabbit lives, it’s usually not freezing temperatures all the time. When it rains rabbits can drink easily from accumulated pools of water near their sheltered area.
What Are The Two Most Common Wild Rabbits?
- Cottontails wild rabbits– Cottontail rabbits ears stick up.They have long legs for running away from predators. Their fur is usually a gray/brown color that blends in well with the woods or bushes where they live. They have white on their back side, and small white tail. There are different species of cottontail rabbits, but the Eastern Cottontail is the most common. They are found in Canada to Mexico, Central America as far as Columbia, South America..In the United States, cottontails live on the East Coast all the way to the Great Plains.
- Europrean Wild Rabbits-European rabbits are small with long hind legs and shorter front legs. Their ears are long with eyes that tend to stick out from either side of their head. The placing of their eyes gives them panoramic vision.Their fur is a grayish brown color. This rabbit is found in Spain, Portugal, Western France all the way to Africa.
Domestic breeds of rabbit originated from the European rabbits. In Britain, in the 1950’s, there was an overwhelming number of wild rabbits. To curb the population,a disease called myxomatosis was introduced among the wild rabbits. It almost caused wild rabbits to almost become extinct. Today, their populations are higher. In many countries they aren’t well loved because they tend to ravage through crops and vegetation on farms.
Do Wild Rabbits Like Living In Groups?
Not all rabbits live in groups with other rabbits. Cottontails are more independent, living on their own. While European rabbits live in social group that lives in large connected underground burrows, or a warren.
Do Wild Rabbits Like Humans?
Unlike some wild animals, rabbits live relatively close to humans. Cottontails live in suburban areas, wooded park areas, city parks or backyards. They often get a bad rap because they eat crops, flowers, cultivated plants and vegetables from the garden such as:
The vast majority of those rabbits can be found in North America. However, they are also natives of Western Europe, Asia, parts of Africa and even South America. They are essentially a global species but a considerable amount of that has been owing to some or other form of animal migration. Humans have assisted with this too.
The South American region has been the most recent beneficiary of such a phenomenon. There are large parts of South America where you still will not find any wild rabbits though. It is a work in progress.
For the most part, the wild rabbit’s secret Subterranean “village” remains unseen and basically unknown. The secret dwellings of the wild rabbits cover vast areas, complete with tunnels, chambers and living quarters.
While we know a considerable amount about what wild rabbits do above the surface, there is still considerable uncertainty about what it is that they do underground.
Recent discoveries by
experts in this field reveal that a lot of what happens below the surface is
quite important to the existence of wild rabbits.
What recent studies have revealed is that wild rabbits are actually phenomenal digging machines, among the best burrowing creatures the world has ever known.
That is a skill which
is critical to their existence.
Rabbit populations are perhaps notorious for the rate at which they expand. A dozen or so rabbits in a given habitat can explode in the matter of one winter and a spring.
That expansion is
carefully nurtured below the surface.
By the time summer arrives, that group of a dozen can explode to over 100. This is not a dance.
A simple rabbit warren – in a five square meter area can have in the region of 13 tunnels burrowed. The depths of those tunnels can range from anything between two feet to over six feet deep. In some cases, they are even deeper than that.
It has been estimated that the tunnels in question are about 20cm in diameter, which is not actually a considerable amount but just enough for a wild rabbit to realize its burrowing objectives.
It is enough to give a large male rabbit room to get through. The significant thing about these tunnels is that there are not just tunnels though. There are actually chambers burrowed out along the way.
Each of those chambers is about twice the size of a football. The rabbit warrens have numerous exits and entrances. The tunnels are almost always linked. The tunnels and chambers are interconnected and vast.
Some of those tunnels are up to 2.5m in depth, perhaps even more.
Given that we now know just how much wild rabbits can achieve, it does also stand to reason that wild rabbits can be very aggressive, specifically with other rabbits. So, it is worth examining just how rabbits go about co-existing with other rabbits in their burrows.
The experts reveal that when put into a tight and natural environment, rabbits will express themselves.
Going Down The Rabbit Hole
Also significant about the tunnels is that they are often wide enough to provide room for other rabbits to pass. For large sections of the time spent underground, the rabbits take it easy.
At the risk of sounding somewhat colloquial, they move around a little and then chill.
They avoid the inclement weather above the surface and conserve their energy as much as conceivably possible because there is not really enough food around.
However, at a certain point during the winter everything seems to change. There is a hormonal change which creates fertile ground for it all to kick off. Ordinarily, the ratio of male to females during the hormonal surge is typically low. Perhaps around 2:10.
The two males that exist for every ten females becomes a battle for supremacy that is actually quite difficult to understand.
Rival males are chased out of the rabbit warren by the dominant male. In what is a very strange reality to be faced with, the dominant male then makes it his mission to have all the girls to himself.
The female rabbits, in the warrens, also produce a display of power, to secure the interest of the male counterpart. They do that with urine. The female rabbit marks her territory within that warren with her urine sample.
The dominant female also gets first choice on the chambers used underground. The dominant male then follows that scent. The less dominant females get to pick from the scraps or the remaining chambers.
Wild Rabbit Nests
When those chambers are chosen, the female rabbits start building nests, using all of the materials that they have sourced from above the surface. Being the resourceful creatures that they are, wild rabbits also have a habit of plucking fur from their bellies to line their nests.
It is all a form of preparation for the birth of many baby rabbits. A common figure for a single litter is about five rabbits. They weigh just 30g at birth, so they are rather tiny and there is more than enough space for them to thrive in those warren chambers.
Just minutes after giving birth, the female rabbit then leaves that chamber before heaving outside to forage.
Several litters are born in a space of days. It is a genuine baby boom and all of those litters are left to fend for themselves in those rabbit warren chambers.
The nests in those rabbit warrens are so well prepared that the babies are able to stay warm enough to fend for themselves. In the animal context, the underground lodgings are an element of luxury.
The mothers only return to the nest, on average, once every 24 hours to feed their young. The significant thing about those warrens is that they are warm and provide some meaningful security.
The baby rabbits thrive in these conditions. They grow fast and the survival rate is high, just because of where they live. It is pretty advanced thinking for a group animals, really.
By the time spring arrives, breeding in those warrens hits full swing. By the time summer arrives, a whole new wave of kids are bred in the rabbit warrens.
The timing of the breeding in those warrens is significant because by the time predators come out hunting again, they will be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of what were once baby rabbits that are now almost fully grown.
Sure, some will succumb but many, if not most will survive the onslaught and they will do so with considerable aplomb.
Rabbits And The Ecology
While there is a specific case about rabbits and the harmful effect they can have on the ecology (in Australia), there is the commonly held view that they have a very important role to play in the environment and its cycle.
We will get onto the Australian example later in this segment.
Something important to understand is that rabbits are prey, a food source for other animals in the environment. In large sections of Europe, rabbits are prey for foxes, badgers and lynxes.
Rabbits also need to be vigilant about what is happening in the air because they are a food source for birds of prey too. They generally go about their operations in environments immediately surrounding the warrens that they have built.
That becomes a convenient hideout when threats do present themselves. Because rabbits are generally so vigilant, they spot potential threats very quickly and deliver timely warnings to their group by thumping the ground hard.
Facts – Wild Rabbits That Actually Hurt The Environment
Authorities and various sources claim that rabbits were the single biggest cause to species loss in Australia during the past century. You see, Australia was not their natural habitat. Those rabbits had come from Europe in the 19th century, aided by humans.
As we have already established in this segment, rabbits breed in large numbers and quickly.
There is a perfectly good reason for them doing what they do and the way that they do it. The biggest problem that tends to emerge from this tale is that of overgrazing.
That is not because
wild rabbits are gluttons but rather it is because there are just so many of
them in any given rabbit warren.
There was the small matter of the natural pasture for livestock in Australia – which is already a pretty barren land. However, rabbits also had a full go at the wooden vegetation in their environments.
So, that would include shrubs, leaves and the barks of trees. The word often bandied about is devastation. First there is the plant species loss and then there is the impact this has on other animals living in and depending on that environment.
The destruction of that vegetation also then means the destruction of the soil – soil erosion. Soil erosion is what happens when topsoil is exposed by the absence of vegetation.
Interventions were subsequently made to remedy the problem and a considerable amount was invested into devising methods that would help exterminate the rabbits in Australia.
None of those suggested remedies was found to be appropriate or effective. The interventions ranged from hunting and killing rabbits to building and erecting rabbit proof fences.
The success with those was severely limited.