Where Do Rabbits Go In The Winter? (The Truth will Surprise you!)

Have you ever wondered and asked yourself: “Where do rabbits go in the winter”? If you have, you’re not alone! Like myself and many others, you may have also noticed that rabbits seem to disappear come cold winds and chilly weather.

Or if you have pet rabbits, they may also behave differently. So what’s really happening and what do wild rabbits do after the first snowflakes of the year fall?


Do Rabbits Hibernate?

Perhaps the most pressing question of all when it comes to rabbits’ behavior during winter is whether or not the furry creatures hibernate. The simple answer is no, they actually don’t!

Unlike what most people think and assume, rabbits do not hibernate in the winter like other mammals such as bears do. For the most part, they behave the same way as they do throughout the year.

You may notice rabbits around your yard or your pet rabbit becoming less active in the cold months. You may also notice rabbits to have less appetite and don’t drink and eat as much.

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This again is natural and is not a cause for alarm.Especially when exposed to the cold weather, rabbits tend to sit still and stay in one place to conserve body heat and energy.If you’re one of the many people who like to take strolls and long walks around the winter landscape, you might have guessed that the reason why you don’t see rabbits is that they are hibernating.

The truth is, they are the most active early in the morning before the sun shines or at night. In the wild, they also rest under burrows or vegetation. This is probably why you don’t see them running around as they usually do during the day.

Researchers in the Lincoln Park Zoo also noted that rabbits are more likely to be spotted at dusk or dawn during the winter because the weather is milder around these time periods.

The rabbits take advantage of the absence of predators and the darkness to forage as much as they can.In addition to that, although they do not hibernate, rabbits do sleep a lot, about eight hours per day to be exact!

That is more than the average number of sleeping hours that we humans get each day!However, unlike us, they get eight hours’ worth of sleep by napping for short periods, around 25 minutes each, many times throughout the day.


Why Don’t Rabbits Hibernate?

To hibernate not only means to sleep for a whole season but also to set your body into a dormant or inactive state. Meaning, your bodily processes such as the digestion of your food happens much more slowly.

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Animals like rodents, bears, squirrels, and even some species of rattlesnakes hibernate during the winter because they may die if they don’t. Because of the scarcity of food on top of the harsh weather, chances of survival for them are just extremely low.

For rabbits, on the other hand, there is no reason to hibernate because food sources are available to them all year round. However, they do undergo behavioral and diet changes during the winter months.


What Do Rabbits Eat During The Winter?

Rabbits usually eat small plants, leafy shrubs, grasses, or leaves. According to the House Rabbit Society, wild rabbits also ingest twigs, barks, fruits, and seeds even though leafy greens comprise the bulk of their diets.

Therefore, rabbits have a wide range of diet options present in large amounts. However, when temperatures drop, most trees and vegetation which serve as their food source either die, fall into a state similar to hibernation, or get buried in snow.

Because of this, food choices become limited and wild rabbits have to spend more time looking for something to eat.The Fish and Game Magazine also notes that the usually abundant food supply is dramatically decreased from the onset through the whole duration of winter.

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Vegetation wither. Most tender young plants, clover, vegetables and berries are hard to find or gone.So, wild rabbits turn to more woody parts of the plants like bark, twigs, and the buds of bushes and trees.

Penn State University also explained that the habit of rabbits to eat their own feces pellets, even though they do this all throughout the year, becomes most important and useful in the winter.

Rabbits usually do this to make the most of their food since their digestives do not work very efficiently. In the winter, this saves them time and energy, as well as allows them to extract and absorb any leftover nutrients.

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Rabbit Hunting During Winter

The lack of food is not the only thing that makes winter tough for wild rabbits. Aside from all these, winter is also when rabbits are most hunted by their main animal predators.

Game and Fish Magazine emphasized that wild rabbits get hunted by owls, hawks, and other winged predators from the sky as well as bobcats and house cats on the ground.

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Humans also shoot rabbits or target them as prey either as a recreational sport or to protect their crops. No wonder rabbits retreat into hiding during the winter. Their chances of survival until spring are unfortunately very slim.


Resourceful Hiding

When winter comes, the bushes and thickets behind which rabbits hide turn into the bramble. Vegetation covers are also gone, and twigs and stems can only do so much to conceal them.

So, rabbits turn to hollow stumps, logs, and brush piles for shelter and cover. Usually, they seek underground shelters or dens lined with twigs, straw, or grass for insulation.Domesticated rabbits, on the other hand, rely on their humans to provide them with shelter and protection from harsh winds, snow, or rain.

​Some wild rabbit species, like the Eastern cottontail, do not dig their own burrows like most other species. Instead, they rely on burrows created by other animals or humans.

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They could also huddle behind or under woody vegetation where they wait until the severely cold weather passes.Some rabbit species can also change their coat colors to blend with the mostly gray and white landscape.

This makes it harder for human hunters and predators to notice them.Their coat may also become thicker to more efficiently conserve body heat.

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Protection For Domesticated Rabbits

According to the Verlannahill Rabbitry, rabbits are better adapted to withstand extremely cold temperature rather than excessive heat. This means that domesticated rabbits living in outdoor hutches are not in danger during the winter.

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Rabbits can tolerate temperatures around the freezing mark, or 32℉ or lower, just as long as they dry and protected from strong winds.If you have pet rabbits, give them extra bedding materials like straw or hay to insulate a section of their hutch completely. However, do not do this for the whole hutch as rabbits still need fresh air.


Rabbit Playfulness During Winter

The Verlanna Hill Rabbitry also revealed that moderately cold weather brings out the naturally playful nature of rabbits. The Pets at Home website even suggests owners to provide rabbits with various toys to engage them and keep them busy.

Many toys can be bought from pet stores, but you can also make toys for your rabbits on your own.For example, you can simply cut out holes from a cardboard box and place it inside your rabbit’s enclosure as something they can hop through and around.

You can also give your rabbits a box filled with shredded paper and hay to let them practice their digging.


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More About Rabbits During Winter

Lincoln Park Zoo, known to be a home to many animal species, not only have wildlife on exhibit but also many other wild species within its landscapes.One of these is the Eastern cottontail or Sylvilagus floridanus.

The zoo management observed the number and population of these rabbits for four consecutive winters to see whether their survival rates significantly differ from rabbits in more natural habitats.

In their experiment, they have an existing knowledge that urban areas may actually provide more water and food sources as well as hiding sites or shelter. There are also less abundant populations of natural predators.

This may mean that city rabbits have higher winter survival rates and therefore larger population densities than their rural relatives.The experiment led to the discovery that there are actually much more rabbits inside the zoo grounds than in natural areas.

An average of 139 rabbits was found during the winter months, giving a density of 12 rabbits per hectare. Compared to the information from a study conducted in Michigan in 1942, this density is around 34 times greater than the 0.08 to 0.35 rabbits per hectare more natural habitats.

However, similar survival rates of about 30% were reported inside the zoo as with other scientific studies.So, rabbits born every spring are more likely to survive in the urban areas because of fewer predators and more resources, leading to the larger densities observed.

When winter comes, food availability becomes scarce once again, and rabbit populations decline until the next spring rolls around.


Conclusion

So where do rabbits go in the winter? Nowhere! They actually stay where they are, and you just don’t see them out and about as much because they are saving their energy.

They could also be hiding or in camouflage with their environment.

Do you have any more comments or questions? Feel free to leave them in the comments section below!


Reference links


http://animals.mom.me/

Kristopher M. Samson
 

"Hello ! My name is Kristopher M. Samson .I'm a firefighter. I love my job and hunting sport. For me , hunting is a sport good for my health . It help me relax after job time"

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