April Sneak Peek

Habitat Management

By Glenn Carson

Rabbit season has come to an end and spring is just around the corner. It won’t be long here in North Carolina until we start seeing flowers bloom. Tree buds are swelling, and before you know it, leaves will begin to appear. Some Easter flowers are blooming now in my yard. To me, this signals spring is just around the corner. Spring also triggers those little bunnies to start the spring mating season. For the next few months, rabbits will be mating and raising young. We want to do all we can to save as many of those young rabbits as possible for later. Those food plots we have been working on will begin to green up and we might see some rabbits grabbing a bite in there while out and about. We know they are searching for a mate or a nesting site.

This month, I want to share a couple of thoughts about creating and maintaining nesting and brood habitat for rabbits. Some sites lack adequate natural cover for young rabbits and that is one area where we as managers can help. Ideal natural habitat usually gets whacked by a bush-hog and we are left creating artificial habitat. We can have good success by providing brush piles that are within close proximity to feeding areas. These piles should be large enough to provide safety from predators and not so small they can be torn apart by a predator. Piles should be dispersed across the landscape so as they are adequately spaced.

Young rabbits face a lot of predators. Most research says almost 80% of the bunnies born will not make it to one year of age. That explains why rabbits have so many litters in a summer. Young rabbits are vulnerable to a variety of predators. Good, natural habitat is best but when it is not adequate or available we can build brush piles to supplement some of those needs. Placing brush piles in close proximity to feeding area is important. Spacing is important. Piles should be 50-75 yards apart, if there is not adequate cover. I guess, if you think like a rabbit for a minute, you don’t want be far from a safe location if a hawk is hovering overhead.

I researched ideal brush pile size for rabbits and found a brush pile for rabbits is recommended to be at least five feet in height and fifteen feet in width. That may seem a little large, but it is just a recommended size. Generally, I did not build mine that large the first time. I added a little brush each year to grow the pile as it rotted down. I have experimented with a variety of designs of piles. I have used logs on the bottom and cross hatched with limbs over top to provide area for movement of rabbits. That design worked well but was a back breaker, if you don’t have access to a young helper.

Let me share my personal design that I have found works well. I gather old pallets from a local hardware. When I get pallets, I transport them to the wood via a four wheeler. When I get to my desired location, I stack two together crisscrossing the openings and knocking out a board or two from the top of the bottom pallet. This will allow rabbits to move to top floor or live on the ground. I guess you might call it a two story home. I cover the top pallet with a piece of black tar paper. I bought a damaged role for 5 bucks. I attach the felt paper with roofing nails. On top of the tar paper, I put a half a bale of hay or straw. Hay or straw seems to fill in any holes. I think it also protects the felt paper some from the limbs which I pile on top. On top of the hay, I place fresh cut limbs to cover the entire pallet. I don’t spend a lot of time. Usually I just pile about two feet of limbs on top. My plan is to add a few limbs each year to keep the pile growing.

To view the rest of this article, refer to page 22 of our April issue!