Rabbits are important game animals. They are highly valued for food and sporting qualities. These values are sometimes outweighed, however, by the damage they do to ornamental plants, garden, fruit trees, and farm crops. Rabbits cause damage by consuming desirable plants or portions of these plants and gnawing the bark during the winter months. Damage can be reduced by protecting valuable plants and/or reducing the rabbit population.
Minnesota law allows landowners or occupants to take rabbits that are causing damage. In such instances, rabbits can be taken without a license and in any manner except by poison or artificial lights in the closed season. For the full law, see Minnesota Statute 97b.655 and Minnesota Statute 97b.601(4)(c).
Individual shrubs and young trees can be protected by cylindrical wire guards made of two or three foot hardware cloth or pantry netting. They should be several inches greater than the diameter of the trunk. If poultry netting is used, wire guards must be braided to prevent rabbits from pressing them against the trunk and damaging the bark. If hardware cloth is not available, temporary substitute materials such as burlap, heavy paper, aluminum foil or plastic may be used.
During the growing season, it is often feasible to erect a wire fence around valuable flowers and garden crops. A two foot fence of ½" galvanized mesh wire is a sufficient barrier.
The most effective method of control of nuisance rabbits is the removal of them. The DNR manages the rabbit population and helps keep them in balance with the environment with established hunting seasons.
In areas where hunting is not permissible due to local laws prohibiting the use of firearms, the alternative is by trapping. To obtain live, or cage type traps, it is suggested contacting the various large rental agencies throughout the metro area or check with your city dog pound or other animal control agency or humane society for possible rental or loan of such a trap.
Set traps along paths frequently used by the rabbits. Effective baits are the type of plants or crops the rabbits are currently raiding from your garden, or any leafy green vegetables.
Once the rabbit is captured in the live trap, you may dispose of it in any humane manner other than poison. If you choose to relocate, it is suggested that the animal be taken at least five miles away and out-of-town, before releasing the animal on any public or private land, obtain permission from the governing agency or landowner.
Consult local laws before applying controls.