Most of the wild rabbits found in the GTA are “Eastern cottontails” (we may occasionally see Snowshoe hares in the north). Cottontails commonly nest in backyards, parks, and other urban locations. Rabbit nests are typically a shallow depression in the ground covered with dried grass and tufts of fur, just enough to cover the babies and keep them warm. The mother spends very little time with them, and may only come back to feed them a couple of times a night. If you’re worried the babies might be orphaned, check our page on baby rabbits for more information.

Leave rabbit nests alone, and be patient

Mother rabbits can be very sensitive to changes around the nest site, so it’s important to leave rabbit nests alone. If the nest is moved even a few feet, the mother will abandon it. Cottontail babies grow up quickly and start to leave their nest as early as 3 weeks of age. They may be independent of their mother by the time they’re only as big as your fist!

 

Deterring rabbits from nesting in your backyard

If you would like to discourage rabbits from nesting in your yard in the future, make the area unappealing. Wait until any existing baby rabbits have grown up and left the nest before trying any of these techniques. Rabbits are a prey species, so they are easily frightened and wary of changes in their environment.

Place unfamiliar visual stimuli around the yard, such as beach balls (they bounce around in the wind), shiny colourful pinwheels, or colourful foil balloons. Empty beer or pop bottles buried up to their necks in the ground will make a scary whistling noise when the wind blows. A motion-sensing sprinkler can work well to deter rabbits and other animals from a backyard. Mesh bags, like the ones onions come in, can be filled with pet fur or human hair from your brush, and hung at rabbit eye level.

Be creative! Visual deterrents are very effective at keeping cottontail rabbits away.

Building a fence with the bottom extending at least 8 inches into the ground will also keep cottontails out. They will not dig or burrow under fences, but they are good at squeezing underneath.

Trapping and relocating rabbits doesn’t work—it’s harmful to the animals and doesn’t address the problem.