Dec 21 2010

Quiz: Where do rabbits go in the winter?

Published by at 7:00 am under Mammals,Quiz


Today’s quiz is something I’ve been wondering about.

In spring, summer and fall rabbits were everywhere and easy to find.  Now that the ground is snow covered, I haven’t seen any and I’ve found only one set of tracks in all my travels. 

So where did the rabbits go?  Are they hiding?  Or sleeping? 

My reference guides make it sound like the winter life of rabbits is barely different from summer’s except that they change their diet from leaves to twigs.  I find it hard to believe that that’s the only difference.

If you know what rabbits do and where they go in the winter, please leave a comment to let me know. 

I’m sure many of us will learn from it!

(photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson from Wikipedia. Click on the photo to see the original.)

26 responses so far

26 Responses to “Quiz: Where do rabbits go in the winter?”

  1. Jennieon 21 Dec 2010 at 8:54 am

    My back yard rabbit has a couple of places, one being under a low deck. He comes out late at night and eats seed that has fallen from a bird feeder.

  2. Karenon 21 Dec 2010 at 9:01 am

    I don’t know exactly what they do but I see them under my birdfeeder at night. Mostly after 10:00 PM. I put an occassional apple out there and they normally show up really late and enjoy some fruit. I’ve only seen one set of rabbit tracks too but they were followed by cat paw prints.

  3. Jay Von 21 Dec 2010 at 9:11 am

    Funny you should mention this. I see rabbits every morning lately while walking my dog in Point Breeze (and my dog LOVES rabbits — well, chasing them anyway). This is the first winter I can remember seeing rabbits so frequently.

  4. John Englishon 21 Dec 2010 at 10:22 am

    While living in Forest Hills, I had a family of rabbits living under one of my lilac trees. I assume they stay more sheltered during the winter when there is less brush/foliage to hide in. A brown rabbit on a white snow cover would make a tempting target, so I rarely saw anything but tracks in the winter.
    They loved the baby carrots I’d set out :-) Several were even so bold as to eat out of my hand if I sat very still.

  5. faith cornellon 21 Dec 2010 at 11:13 am

    Love the bunny stories, never see any in winter here at all; but we live by the edge of a woods so they are probably down in there or under the huge bushes growing along edges But we have some feral cats here & dog walkers & now a small group of pheasants that are not even bothered by us coming & going in the parking lot & apparently know that people are OK.

  6. Libby Strizzion 21 Dec 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Your quizzes get such interesting results, Kate. I think we all like to get in on the action — give our opinions & solutions. Think I’ll get some baby carrots and set them out — good idea. I usually see lots of rabbit tracks in my snow — not so many this year, but then the yard is just crowded with tracks, many of them mine.

  7. Kate St. Johnon 21 Dec 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Very interesting that they come out at 10:00pm. I typically don’t pay attention to my back yard at night but years ago on a moonlit night I saw a screech-owl perched on the bird feeder shepherd’s hook waiting for mice.

  8. Marcy Con 21 Dec 2010 at 7:54 pm

    We have lots of rabbits here…just follow their tracks in the snow to see where they go, where they go to eat the bird seed, drink from the ponds, hide under bent asters, grasses or goldenrods, and even hop up the ramp to eat seed off the deck….when the snow is high, this is when they can do some damage to trees and shrubs when they girdle the stems…last year it was almost 3 feet or more on the stems, when I found the damage. I have seen them in the daytime, but mostly right before dark, they just appear. They will tag-team with squirrels getting sunflower seeds under the feeders(they eat while the squirrels let seed fall to the ground from the “squirrel proof” feeders-NOT!!!.) Also have seen them feeding near deer in the driveway. I also put out older vegetable and apples under the shrubs instead of the compost in winter…I usually find several bunny nests in their shallow holes in the gardens in the spring when I am trimming back the plants. Did you ever watch Rabbits play “Tag” or maybe it’s something else? They jump in the air at each other and run in circles…it’s fun to watch….You just never know what you will see outside your window!!!

  9. Kate St. Johnon 21 Dec 2010 at 8:19 pm

    I saw bunny tag once in the summer at Central Catholic High School’s football field before they turned it into astro turf. It was hilarious to watch one rabbit charge at the other one & the one on the receiving end jump straight up about 6 feet. Yow!

  10. Markon 21 Dec 2010 at 8:25 pm

    You may want to read the write-up at this link:

    http://www.vtfishandwildlife.com/VTCRITTERS/factsheets/mammals/Eastern%20Cottontail%20Rabbit/Eastern%20Cottontail%20Rabbit%20-%20Final.pdf

    Rabbits are prey animals. They don’t reproduce in the winter, or at least not successfully, so as they are eaten, etc. there numbers decline. They do seem to be more active at dusk and dawn and probably at night, although I sometimes see them during the day.

  11. Libby Strizzion 22 Dec 2010 at 7:09 am

    “prey animals,” eh? You mean somebody’s dinner. I saw that jumping straight-up feat once — my daughter & I were driving home at night & caught two bunnies in my headlights. I tooted at them with my horn & one jumped straight up, just as you said, Kate. Funniest thing I ever saw.

  12. Frank Corrention 22 Dec 2010 at 10:09 am

    I see lots of holes in the ground beside trails and near trees that could lead to rabbit burrows. I always presumed they were occupied year-round and by generations. Of course, these are in relatively wild areas, like Schenley and Frick Park and the Mt. Washington hillside. They are so dear.

  13. Karenon 22 Dec 2010 at 10:11 am

    We had two dwarf rabbits as pets when my son was little and when they would do that jumping in the air thing my son would say “Look Mom the bunnies are doing happy feet”. I couldn’t describe it any better….

  14. Barbaraon 22 Dec 2010 at 8:19 pm

    Love your winter weed series, please keep it up.

    Rabbits in winter–I have always presumed they stayed in brushy or shruby areas so they wouldn’t become prey. I’ll have to look for prints this winter.

    We don’t have any snow yet so I see them in my small back yard after dark. They seem to not to mind my comings and goings as long as I stay a safe distance away.

    In late spring I have seen they play Hop Scotch where one rabbit will jump over the other one and this goes on for a short period of time, then maybe a brief chase.

    They are lots of fun to watch.

    Happy Holidays

  15. Steve-oon 22 Dec 2010 at 9:26 pm

    Are they like squirrels where they hibernate when the weather is bad, but come out to forage when it is decent?

  16. Candyon 22 Dec 2010 at 11:07 pm

    Shortly after I read your post, I drove to my son’s school to pick him up after a meet. It was about 9:30 p.m., and as I drove up the driveway to the school, a cottontail rabbit darted across the road into a patch of woods. I don’t know where most rabbits go in the winter, but that one likes to play chicken with mini-vans!

  17. Marianneon 23 Dec 2010 at 2:15 pm

    I agree with what Mark said about rabbits being prey animals.

    There are rabbit tracks all over my wooded property, (one advantage of snow cover) but there are new rabbit tracks every night where I feed the birds.

    A few days ago, during the morning, there was a rabbit, gray squirrel and 2 Ring-Necked Pheasants under a large Scotch Pine tree and some thick deciduous shrubs right next to it. They were all within a 10 foot diameter circle. The dog sat on the chair by the window and really enjoyed watching all of the wildlife. (many birds at feeders also)

  18. Markon 24 Dec 2010 at 8:54 am

    Last Sunday, my while Loree and I were participating in the Bushy Run Christmas bird count, we saw a dead rabbit lying along a long dead-end farm road. When we came back through, a Red-tailed hawk was standing over the rabbit feeding. We wondered if the rabbit was a road kill and the hawk was scavenging or if the road was a convenient place for the hawk to eat its prey since the snow was fairly deep off the road. We had to drive through, so the hawk flew a very short distance to perch in a nearby tree – waiting to return to its meal.

  19. Markon 24 Dec 2010 at 8:59 am

    Rabbits often use Woodchuck burrows and brushy areas as places to escape predators and to get out out of the inclement weather. I have seen this in my local area of mixed farmland and woodlots, usually around brushy areas.

  20. Anne Curtison 27 Dec 2010 at 11:28 pm

    There’s at least one that is out off Beeler St. at about 11:30 pm in my front yard, because that’s the last time I take our dog out for the night, and it torments her by standing there, saying “I’m a statue and you can’t see me!” but of course she can from the contrast! No bunny tracks in the back, but lots of (feral) cat tracks. Hmmm? A connection?

    Happy New Year to all!
    Anne

  21. Carol Steytleron 30 Dec 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Are there many pheasants in the Pittsburgh area? I live in the south hills and used to hear them on a regular basis, but that was a long time ago when I lived down on Cedar Blvd near Bird Park. And now I live near Dormont Junction, and have for the last 35 years. Not quite as spacious. And I recently heard that they were not around here anymore. Marianne mentioned seeing them but I don’t know where she lives.

  22. Kate St. Johnon 30 Dec 2010 at 11:36 pm

    Pheasants are game birds from China which are stocked by the PA Game Commission. They used to do well in our state when the landscape was dominated by farmland. I remember them in the south suburbs of Pittsburgh in the 1960s.

    Pheasants don’t thrive in forests and suburbs so as Pennsylvania farms turned into woodland and our suburbs expanded, the pheasants disappeared. Wild turkeys took their place. We have turkeys in the City of Pittsburgh that hang out on our steep wooded hillsides.

    (Marianne lives on a farm near Dubois,PA. I think that’s why she sees pheasants.)

  23. V. L. Grahamon 17 Jan 2011 at 2:18 pm

    These are very interesting post. I decided to inquire about rabbits in the winter because I was one of those individuals who thought perhaps they migrated somewhere for the winter, until one day in November, sitting in the snow was a rabbit in my back yard. I didn’t think it was strange except I live right outside of Chicago and there are no woods, brushes, or anything else. I let my dog out in the back yard and she ran after the rabbit. I found myself saying, “run rabbit, run.” Well of course the rabbit got away (thank goodness)! 3 days ago, I noticed a second rabbit. I’m saying to myself, “Please don’t let my backyard become invasion of the rabbits.” I find myself looking out the window every night watching their behavior. For the most part they just sit there in the cold snow. Well, last night, I saw rabbit number 3. We don’t have a deck for them to hide under, but we have 3 white birch trees and I am wondering if they are feeding off of the trees.

  24. Jeffon 20 Jan 2013 at 2:19 pm

    The last few years here in Nashville I’ve had bunnies entertaining me at various times during the day and night in the spring through fall but disappear in winter. No sign of them anywhere. My property backs up to woods so I’m sure they’re still back there somewhere. I just don’t see why they don’t show themselves at all. We get rare snow and our temps are not usually too cold.

    Just thought I’d put in my two cents.

  25. Shayon 17 Feb 2014 at 10:45 am

    I just went out to put birdseed in feeder. I found 5-8 tuffs of fur no blood. Not sure if from a rabbit or squirrel. I am going back out to clean that up. Will the birds return. What do you think happened?

  26. Kate St. Johnon 17 Feb 2014 at 10:57 am

    Shay, those signs usually mean a hawk caught a mammal beneath your feeder and took away its meal to eat elsewhere. My guess is that it was a squirrel.

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