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Rabbit and Hare Management in Washington State Home Yards and Gardens

Rabbit and Hare Management in Washington State Home Yards and Gardens

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David Pehling, Extension Educator, WSU Snohomish County
Rabbits and hares can be a nuisance to homeowners and their landscapes, causing damage to plants and trees. In Washington State, two of the most common species to cause damage are the snowshoe hare and Eastern cottontail rabbit. This publication describes the characteristics of these two species, signs of activity and damage, and management options.
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We often think of rabbits as cute, furry, and harmless, but some species can cause extensive damage to home gardens and orchards throughout the year. Here you will learn how to protect your plants and still enjoy having wild rabbits and hares in your yard.

Rabbits, hares, and pikas belong to the order Lagomorpha. For descriptions and images of all our Washington lagomorphs, see the Burke Museum website in the Further Reading section.

Washington State is home to eight species of these animals. The most well-known include:

  • Nuttall’s cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus nuttallii)
  • Domestic European rabbits (Oryctolagus)
  • Black-tail jackrabbit (Lepus californicus)
  • Whitetail jackrabbit (Lepus townsendii)
  • Snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus)
  • Eastern cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus)

The Northwest native cottontails may occasionally cause damage in Washington State home landscapes. Domestic European rabbits, which tunnel extensively, can cause trouble when the rabbits are released. In the past, Feral European rabbits have caused serious damage on some of the San Juan Islands with their extensive tunnel systems, also called warrens.

Washington’s two jackrabbits, the black-tail jackrabbit and the whitetail jackrabbit, seldom cause damage in home gardens because they generally prefer the wide open spaces of eastern Washington.

Only the snowshoe hare and the introduced Eastern cottontail rabbit commonly damage gardens, orchards, and landscapes. To help homeowners identify these two species, Table 1 compares their physical characteristics, biology, and habits.

Table 1. Comparison of the snowshoe hare and Eastern cottontail rabbit.



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