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By Larry Ross

RR # 3, Clifford, N0G 1M0

(Larry adds to his previous observations (see Summer'93 issue, page16) about rabbit control in the winter orchard. It seems these little critters are more devious than he originally thought. If you have an orchard, consider his experience before winter's in full swing. Otherwise, the consequences could be substantial!)

When the month of February rolled around last winter, I had a chance to look at what I had written the year before. "To trap rabbits, place carrot under trap." Well, last winter I hadn't any organic carrots, and the first thing I learned is that rabbits don't like "storebought" ones. Finally, I placed organic apples and pears under the trap. Night after night, the rabbits got them out without setting off the trap. So, I eventually stuck the apple on the wires, and caught a rabbit on the first night I tried this method. Even though I have caught them both ways, it seems that putting the bait on the wires works better.

I also started to use steel "T" posts cut in four foot lengths to anchor the traps in place. (This prevents having dogs, or other four-legged creatures, make off with a meal and your trap.) The ring on the end of the chain is able to slide down these posts, and you can put yellow insulators on these for more visability.

As I worked through this new wrinkle last winter, I learned another thing - it's amazing the damage one or two cottontails can do to an orchard during a few weeks of winter, especially when the snow is high.

Editor's Note: From my experience, Larry is certainly right about how much damage one or two rabbits can do! He's also right about connecting their orchard feeding with periods of deep snow. During two different winters, damage to our nursery and orchard occurred during late January when the snows were their deepest. This was also the period when the snow had a good solid crust. I guess when the snow is deep, alternate sources of food aren't available, i.e. they're buried; and when the snow is crusted, rabbits are able to travel vast distances quickly and easily. The tracks from this past winter's damage in our nursery indicated that the one (or possibly two) rabbits chewing the stock came from an area of the fencerow, approximately 500' away.

Coincidentally, our damage occurred during the four or five days when broken harnesses on my snowshoes prevented me from doing my daily check on the nursery. A mere coincidence? Not likely. One orchardist makes daily rounds with his dog, to leave their scent as a warning. The lesson for me was how quickly animals can appear to detect a "weak link", and how just a few days makes such a big difference.

Copyright 1994 Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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