January Sneak Peak

Habitat Management

by Glenn Carson

At the end of the last article I asked the question, how can we better manage our habitat and eliminate some of our predator issues? Predators do have to eat too, don’t they? And the answer is yes, but let’s not encourage them to eat our bunnies.

There are a few things we need to know before we get started. We need to know a little terminology like habitat and carrying capacity. First, let’s define habitat. Habitat is defined as an environment inhabited by a particular species. It is the physical environment or surroundings where an animal lives. Simply put, it is the place where an animal lives. As rabbit hunters, we all know the best places to find those bunnies- it’s those thick patches over-grown with vegetation where neither man nor beast can access. Ever notice how these spots have a lot of rabbits? These are the spots I want you to think about for this article.

There is another term we need to get familiar with and have a general understanding of and that is “carrying capacity”. Carrying capacity is a term used to define the ability of an area to support wildlife. In our situation, we are going to be talking about rabbits. Essentially, it is the number of rabbits that an area can support. It is also important to understand that number is not unlimited. There is a limited amount of food and habitat available in an area. These are limiting factors and will limit the number of rabbits in an area, thus carrying capacity.

Now that you understand habitat requirements and know a little about carrying capacity, let’s talk about rabbits. There are several species of rabbits. I am most familiar with the eastern cottontail. Therefore, the basic information provided in this article will be written with the eastern cottontail in mind. As you are aware, rabbits have a wide variety of habitats in which they exist. They are a very adaptive species. They can live in the suburbs or in the thickest most remote locations. The eastern cottontail prefers dense vegetation but often utilize hardwoods, pine stands, cutovers and even open grassland.

The diet of the eastern cottontail also consists of a wide variety of vegetation and woody plants. Season is also important. In the spring, summer and fall, rabbits feed on available green vegetation such as grasses, forbs, and sedges. It would be pretty safe to say anything green is on the menu. Late fall and winter tend to be a little tougher for rabbits. Winter foods tend to be woody plants, bark, buds, branch tips, briars, and the like. As one might expect, this is one area where we as landowners and managers can help out our bunnies. That is where I will focus the rest of this article.

For the remainder of this article, please refer to our January issue page 51.

Author: Tamah DePriest

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