Rabbits, just like rodents, are very well known for the speed at which they breed, with many females having more than one litter a year. In fact, it is not uncommon for the average female rabbit to have many litters because gestation is only about 1 month. Each of these litters can have anywhere from three or four babies, to seven, eight, nine, and maybe even more. Not only that, but the mother is physically able to become pregnant again a few days after giving birth.
Let’s just imagine you have one pair of breeding rabbits on your land. They stick around for twelve months. They have three litters, and each of those litters contains five youngsters. Two adult rabbits could turn into 17 rabbits, with 2 adults and 15 youngsters. What if that pair had four litters? That would mean 20 babies. If she had a few extra young in her litter one time that would mean a higher rabbit colony. It doesn't take long for the numbers to start mounting up. Better conditions, such as a well-built burrow and plenty of food around will encourage longer survival and resources for young, meaning faster breeding. If the rabbits are having difficulty finding food, they will slow down the rate at which they breed.
Young rabbits can reach sexual maturity at about six months of age, so, within the same year, the pair of breeding rabbits could give birth to a number of litters that might also become sexually mature, and then have their own babies, within the same year. Once again, that population number just keeps on growing!
Although rabbits breed like … well, rabbits, they don’t tend to live for very long. The average life span of a wild rabbit is just two to three years. Many of them fall prey to predators, including humans, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and even neighborhood cats and dogs, and if that's not what gets them, it’ll be a passing vehicle, dehydration, starvation, or hypothermia. The short lifecycle likely contributes to their need to reproduce quickly, so if conditions are right in their environment, they will multiply quickly.
Rabbits are often thought of as pets, but wild rabbits not only exist, but pose a massive nuisance wildlife problem for many property owners, agricultural, residential, and commercial alike. It is when these hopping critters are eating, pooping, and attract other bigger predators such as wolves, coyotes, and foxes that you may need to reassess the environment you have on your property and whether you want to create for wildlife refuge or not.
Elizabeth Gatto is a lover of wildlife and promoter of wildlife conservation. She promotes humane nuisance wildlife removal so people know it is possible to respect nature as well as maintain safety in your home. Find her online at Attic Noises. Read all of Elizabeth’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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