Humane ways to control rabbits
Controlling animals, especially rabbits, is a controversial task. Here, Mimi Bekhechi, associate director at PETA, details that allowing people to shoot the animals at night is ineffective, cruel and can even lead to PR disasters for the golf club.
Bounding rabbits are a welcome sign that spring is in the air and the golf season has arrived. But the bunnies’ taste for plants leaves many frustrated greenkeepers feeling less than benevolent towards them. Fortunately, there are proven, effective ways to deter rabbits that won’t cost them their lives or leave you feeling like Carl Spackler in Caddyshack. The following are our top tips for keeping and greens bunny-free.
First, make sure that the animals that are causing damage to your plants are actually rabbits. An easy way to tell is to check the plants themselves. Rabbits have upper incisors, so the plants that they have browsed will have a smooth, clean-angled, neatly clipped appearance, whereas plants that have been browsed by deer will appear ragged and torn. Rabbits will also leave pea-sized, light-brown droppings scattered around the area. If you aren’t certain what type of animal is visiting your course, the best times to watch for rabbits are at dawn and dusk.
The best way to deter rabbits is to make the area undesirable to them. Scattering mothballs, lavender or catnip around the plants that rabbits enjoy will keep them at bay. To evict the animals, place repellents such as rags soaked with ammonia inside or near the burrows. Rabbits don’t like the smell and will leave the area. In less visible areas of your course, you can place statues of dogs or foxes, which may scare them away. Most garden centres or DIY shops also sell electronic repellents. These solar-powered devices slide easily into the ground and emit sounds, vibrations and flashing lights which deter animals both above and below ground.
Next, eliminate food sources. Encourage rabbits to find food elsewhere by weeding thoroughly. Cover the remaining plant stems with metal mesh or spray the plants with pepper-based repellents. And maintain a strict course policy against feeding wildlife.
Never try to relocate rabbits. They spend most of their short lives within the same 10-acre area, so being relocated confuses them and can cause them to be hit by cars or killed by predators as they try to adjust to unfamiliar surroundings. Relocated rabbits can also have difficulty finding adequate food, water and shelter.
And don’t help increase the population. Killing wild animals in an attempt to control their population usually backfires. When animals are killed or trapped and forcibly removed from an area, the food supply will spike. And such a spike will attract new animals and prompt them and the survivors to breed at an accelerated rate. So lethal methods typically serve only to create a frustrating and expensive cycle. And, of course, those methods don’t take into account the rabbits’ young. Mother cottontail rabbits may return to their nests in order to feed their babies only twice a day, at dawn and dusk, because it decreases the chances of alerting predators to the nest’s location. If the mother is trapped or killed while she is out gathering food, her babies will almost certainly starve to death.
Making your course unattractive to rabbits and removing their food supply will encourage them to move on and raise their families elsewhere. These methods will save you time and money – and also save rabbits’ lives.
Mimi Bekhechi began working for PETA in 2007. As PETA UK’s associate director, Bekhechi is responsible for overseeing PETA UK’s campaigns and marketing as well as its education and media departments. Bekhechi previously served as the organisation’s operations manager and coordinated PETA UK’s campaign work in her subsequent role as manager of special projects. Follow her on Twitter at @Mimi_Bekhechi
PR disasters 1 – dog shot at Hampshire course
Marriott Meon Valley in Hampshire suspended pest control measures after a family dog was shot dead on its golf course last autumn.
Four-year-old whippet Wilma was mistaken for a rabbit.
The hotel apologised to the dog’s owner, John Kirby, but he criticised the golf club and his comments were reported throughout the national media.
“Anyone in charge of a high-powered rifle should be more aware of their surroundings and be 100 percent sure about what they’re shooting at, which they blatantly weren’t,” he said. The outcry even resulted in a police investigation into the incident.
PR disasters 2 – geese shooting in Worcestershire
Bank House Hotel and Golf Club in Worcestershire faced a PR disaster last year after it shot several geese, which were designated as ‘vermin’.
Worcester News reported that the bodies of at least seven Canada Geese were found floating in a lake ‘just yards’ from the homes of people living nearby.
Local resident Lyn Kirby told the paper she was “sickened” by the killings while dozens of people expressed their anger on the internet. “It takes a special kind of low life to judge geese droppings as unhygienic yet think it is acceptable to leave rotting carcasses floating in the lake,” said one. “Yet another example of human kind killing animals for merely getting in the way,” added another.