I took this photo of a wild rabbit that has made my parents’ front lawn and garden hedge part of its territory. She, or he, stayed stock-still, just a few rotations of the ears, resting under a tree out front, out of the rain. Then, it headed down the side stairs to the back yard, where it roams between my parents’ and their many neighbours. So long as there are plenty of dandelions and other herbs to eat, and shelter from predators, it need not be endangered.

Of course, most people would welcome sharing a yard with wildlife, but some gardeners and some dogs may make their parts hostile. Let’s hope this rabbit has a good den and is well-prepared for the winter.

But that made me wonder:

How do rabbits survive in winter?

I know about the Snowshoe Hare, and how it changes from brown in the summer to white in the winter. Do they, like deer, forage under the snow for the previous summer’s vegetation?

As is often the case, this is not an original question; others have looked for the answer before me. This page is about how to identify the five lagomorphs native to Canada. And this page is about what rabbits do in winter. They form “rabbit highways” in the snow from place to place. They need thickets of woods and vegetation like wild raspberry patches. When farmers rip out hedgerows and small woods along their property and fences, they eliminate habitat for many kinds of animals. I wish they wouldn’t do that. It directly and signficantly contributes to the endangerment of species.

Grandmother Wren, a blog for grandparents and their grandchildren, tells us that rabbits often use the burrows of other species – such as groundhogs and skunks  – to overwinter. Share it with your kids, or tell others, about how other animals overwinter and the physical changes they go through for both hibernation and endurance.

I’m going to ask my parents to put some food out on a weekly basis so that “their” rabbit (like “my” skunk, living under my back deck) doesn’t have too far to roam to keep fed and healthy over the winter. Roaming increases its energy expenditure, and as Brits learned from 2010’s unusually cold winter in Europe, animals that do not migrate or hibernate need to conserve their energy against the cold. Do not disturb them unnecessarily.


Also published on Medium.