Measures to Reduce Rabbit Damage in Agriculture

In this article, we will learn more about the damage caused by rabbits in agriculture and the four best anti-rabbit measures to minimize such damage.

The rabbit is a native species of the Iberian Peninsula. Being the first link in the food chain for many other species, it is vital for the biodiversity of the Mediterranean ecosystem.

However, rabbits cause numerous problems for farmers. In fact, rabbits are included in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s list of the 100 most harmful invasive exotic species in the world.

Rabbits, a pest in the field

Rabbits have invaded rural areas. In some areas, the problem of rabbit overpopulation is not new and has been going on for more than 10 years. The main reasons for these rabbit infestations are twofold: rabbits have abundant food available in crops and grasslands, and there is very little predation. Additionally, rabbits were reintroduced in some areas in the past to promote other species such as birds and lynxes.

Damages caused by rabbits in agriculture and livestock

Rabbits are one of the wild species that cause the most damage in agriculture. Rabbits greatly reduce crop production and profitability.

Rabbits cause damage to all types of crops: olive, almond, cherry, citrus, pistachio, saffron, but especially vineyards and cereals. In vineyards, rabbits eat the shoots, causing the vines to turn black and produce no yield. Rabbits also ravage small plots and gardens, where especially during spring and summer nights, they eat everything. And what they don’t eat, their gnawing causes the plants to eventually die.

The widespread proliferation of rabbits is also affecting livestock. In some areas, rabbits devour all the pasture, especially for sheep.

The four best measures to minimize rabbit damage in agriculture

There are four fundamental measures to control damage caused by rabbits in agriculture and restore crop profitability.

Some of these measures are traditional, such as fencing the plots or ferreting, while others are more innovative, such as rabbit deterrents using sonic and/or ultrasonic waves.

Rabbit Repellers

There are two types of rabbit repellers: sonic-based rabbit deterrents and ultrasonic rabbit deterrents

  • The Sonic-based Rabbit Deterrents emit sounds of predators (packs of dogs, wolves, gunshots…) that scare rabbits and keep them away from the crops. These sound-based rabbit deterrents have extensive coverage. A single device can cover up to 2.4 hectares of crops.
  • The Ultrasonic Rabbit Deterrents detect the movement of animals and emit ultrasonic signals at that moment, and optionally, also a flashing light.
  • We recommend the article “How to Repel Rabbits with Sonic and Ultrasonic Rabbit Repellers,” where you will find detailed information about these two types of Rabbit Deterrents.
  • We also recommend the article “How to Prevent Rabbits in the Garden – Benito Sánchez’s Experience“, where Benito, one of BirdGard Iberia’s clients, explains how he has successfully deterred rabbits from his vegetable garden.

Fencing and Electric Fences

  • Many farmers fence their crops with the resources they have, but in most cases, fences alone are not sufficient as rabbits still manage to enter.
  • Electric fences for rabbits need to be installed at ground level to prevent rabbits from entering the planting area. These electric fences deliver a small electric shock upon contact. They yield better results than traditional fences, but they are not cheap solutions, as they cost approximately €2000 per 400 linear meters of electric fence.

Raptor Perches and Ferreting

  • In areas where there are no trees, raptor perches can be installed to promote the presence of raptors that feed on rabbits. Another traditional technique for controlling rabbit populations is ferreting, which involves hunting rabbits with the assistance of ferrets.

Contingency Plantings and Fertilizers

  • These fertilizers contain concentrations of certain active ingredients that generate a taste or odor that causes aversion to rabbits. It is necessary to reapply them periodically, and their effectiveness is greatly reduced with irrigation or rainfall.
  • Contingency plantings involve planting species that rabbits dislike, with the intention of having them try these plants first instead of moving on to the main crop we want to protect.

When the rabbit problem is more contained and they do not become so numerous that they turn into a full-blown infestation that attacks crops, another option is to capture them using rabbit trapping cages. If you are considering this method, we recommend reading the article: “The Best Animal Trapping Cages: Comparison and Recommendations”.

Anti-Rabbit Solutions We Discourage

We did not mention in our previous list of measures to combat rabbits, some home remedies to repel rabbits (such as: the use of vinegar, spicy substances, raw egg, urine…) because they are tricks of little or no efficacy.

We also did not consider other aggressive and prohibited practices, such as the use of poisons for rabbits.

Though it might seem surprising given what we have explained so far, rabbits are considered an endangered species. And this is because, although rabbits are very present in agricultural areas, they are scarce in mountainous areas where they are very necessary for other species such as the Iberian lynx.

Which Anti-Rabbit Measures Are Most Effective?

All the measures mentioned above are effective in reducing damage caused by rabbits in crops.

Some of these anti-rabbit measures are more expensive to implement, such as electric fences; others are more challenging to maintain, such as the presence of raptors or ferreting; and some, such as ultrasonic rabbit repellents, are more suitable for protecting small gardens or plots rather than large areas.

In general, the best approach to combat rabbits is to combine several of these measures and select the most suitable anti-rabbit measures for each specific case.

If you’re experiencing rabbit problems, we recommend the following articles:

We also invite you to contact BirdGard Iberia, where one of their experts will provide you with free advice on the best solution for your specific case.