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From Arctic Hares to Flemish Giants, rabbits are adorable fuzzballs that often pop on your feed as some cute meme or post. They are small, cute, and have little to no defence mechanism, which makes them lovable but also EDIBLE. Yes, numerous wild animals and predatory birds prey on rabbits, and some of them depend on these creatures completely for their survival.
Not only animals and birds but also humans have been considered the top predators of rabbits (discussed below). You read that right!
Here is a complete list of animals and birds that prey on rabbits and are considered their major predators.
What Predators Eat Rabbits?
Below we will discuss each of the rabbit predators:
Birds that eat Rabbits
The owl population is densely spread across the U.S. and Australia, all the way to Arctic regions such as Alaska too. Owls hunt down mostly animals that are smaller than them in size, including small baby rabbits. The adult rabbits are mostly captured by the large barn owls, barred owls, and great horned owls. For hunting and survival, these owls depend on their extraordinary vision and an excellent sense of hearing. These nocturnals sit and wait for their prey and silently swoop down and grasp rabbits which are one of their main sources of food.
Capturing the rabbits in their sharp talons, owls usually make a meal out of these creatures during the night.
Snowy Owls eat rabbits in the Arctic Tundra. With a mesmerizingly wide white plumage, wingspans reaching more than four feet, and an overpowering weight of 5 pounds, Snowy owls are the major predators of rabbits and rodents. Although the primary diet of an owl consists of lemmings, competing against the arctic foxes for the same makes them turn towards other arctic creatures such as hares, rabbits, and mice. Unlike the other owls, Snowy owls are diurnal predators.
Eagles are deadly predators; among them, bald eagle and golden eagle are often found feeding on rabbits. Eagles living near water bodies mostly feed on fish, and almost 60-90% of their regular diet is made of fishes. Golden Eagles living in remote areas with good vegetation prey on rabbits that are in abundance and easy to feed on.
For other predatory birds like Falcons and Kestrels too, rabbits make an easy meal.
Crows are opportunistic feeders who feed on small creatures and mainly scavenge on dead animals. Though they are not birds of prey, they actively hunt small birds, rodents and other small animals, mainly baby rabbits.
When crows can not hunt and kill rabbits on their own, they are reported to drive them out to roads where they are run down by vehicles and finally feasted upon by crows.
Hawk is a medium-sized bird of prey, and it has excellent eyesight, which makes it a great hunter. It has a large variety of species with different diet categories. Among them, species like Red-Tailed Hawk and Cooper’s Hawk mainly feed on small rodents and small mammals like rabbits, making rabbits their main source of food.
They scan the ground while flying and tend to swoop in and catch rabbits with their strong talons and suffocate them in their claws if the rabbit is young. They also snatch and tear apart the adult rabbit’s skin while snooping. It is said that the males hawks are after birds and female hawks look for mammals, but a cottontail rabbit is an essential part of their diet.
Generally, the species, therefore the size of the hawk, decides the size of its prey. Thus, larger hawk species are more prone to catching rabbits than smaller ones.
Animals that eat Rabbits
Although not all domestic animals devour snakes, there are a few common pet animals that can attack and eat rabbits.
In every part of the world, one can find dogs as the main culprit that chase and kill rabbits. There are many dog breeds like Beagle, Basset Hound, Labrador and Bloodhound, which are mainly bred for this purpose.
It is always unwise to have a Jack Russell terrier, Basset Hounds, Redbone Coonhounds, Fox terrier and Weimaraner breed of dogs around a rabbit since they are more likely to kill them even if kept apart. One who pets a rabbit should not leave the rabbit unsupervised; keep them secure from the neighbourhood dogs, and the rabbit should not be allowed to be free in the backyard.
Although a large part of the controversy whether dogs kill rabbits or not depends on their upbringing. This means that even though numerous labradors and beagles are bred to chase down rabbits, pet dogs with a proper upbringing are usually compatible with these furry animals.
These are the dogs that tend to be most compatible with rabbits:
- Retrievers, including Golden and Labrador
Although big cats like a lion, tiger, bobcats, cheetah, cougar, etc., are carnivores with a specific diet and for meat, they mainly hunt mammals to feed on; even house cats can often kill and eat rabbits.
Wild cats move in packs, mostly hunting down large mammals, but when there is a shortage of food, they even hunt small creatures like rabbits. Solitary cats are more likely to hunt rabbits, though it is not a permanent spice of food for them.
A number of wild animals tend to hunt down and eat rabbits. Here is all about them.
Rabbits and Foxes? A definite prey-predator relationship. Most areas inhabited by foxes are also shared by rabbits, thus making rabbits one of the favourite meals of foxes. Red Foxes basically survive off of rabbits, and if you’re living in an area frequented by foxes, we strongly advise you on building fox-proof hutches that are wired with heavy meshes. Wood hutches with wire meshes provide immense protection to your pet rabbit.
The arctic foxes, fennec and swift foxes, apart from red foxes, count in as the major predatory fox subspecies that hunt rabbits.
Wolves are relatives of foxes, their diet resembling the foxes too. Wolves, however, are bigger and eat about 20 pounds of weight in total, most of which comes from meat. Wolves do eat rabbits, similar to foxes. However, their survival mainly depends on large ungulates, and often small ones such as grey wolves. Wolves often feed on small mammals and rodents, and although rabbits are not a primary source of their diet, they do prey on these creatures when the food is scarce, and options are less.
In Minnesota, however, wolves feed on rabbits if deer aren’t available, thus making rabbits their secondary diet. Wolves in the Arctic tundra biome, too, feed on rabbits apart from caribou and musk ox. Since Arctic wolves have great camouflaging capabilities, they can easily hunt and eat rabbits.
Dingos are apex predators; they are the grey wolves close relatives, and they can hunt mammals even larger than them in size when they are hunting in packs. They feed on mammals like Kangaroo, wallabies, wombats and rabbits. Like wolves, they move and hunt in packs of 2 or more individuals – the group is mainly made of family members.
The diet of these large carnivores, which previously fed on wallabies and kangaroos, changed during the mid-19th century, and today they are known for consuming mostly rabbits and small rodents.
Lynx is a close relative of the bobcat; they inhabit different habitats like forested regions, deciduous forests, coniferous forests, lakes, rivers, wetlands and plains. Lynx are found throughout Canada, Alaska, Minnesota, Montana, and Washington. They prey on small animals like mice, rabbit, voles, squirrels, grouse, and ptarmigan.
Some species of lynx depend completely on rabbits and hares for their survival when the population of the rodents is less. Following a cycle, the Lynx-Snowshoe hare relationship allows lynx to devour a surplus of rabbits when the rabbit population is high. This happens because when the rabbits (snowshoe hares) are in surplus, their food supply is exhausted, and it is easier for the lynx to catch and eat them.
They are not prone to starvation or predation as they don’t reserve food as fat on their body.
The size of an Ocelot is twice the size of a house cat, and this sleek animal inhabits dense forests like the rainforest, savanna, thorn forests and mangrove swamps. These cats are nocturnals with keen sight and hearing sense that they use while hunting. Ocelots feed on mammals that are smaller than them in size, therefore mostly sticking to rodents such as rabbits, rats, and mice. They also feed on a variety of reptiles such as iguanas, lizards, and snakes. Ocelots are also known to make a meal of land crabs and birds available in their habitat.
Their menu may change with fluctuations in the surrounding environment and change in season. Ocelots are found all the way through Arizona, Texas, and in most parts of central and opportunistic predators feeding on a wide variety of food which mainly consists of states, they very frequently encounter rabbits.
Coyotes are opportunistic predators feeding on a wide variety of food which mainly consists of small mammals like rabbits, mice, voles, and shrews. They are found in different habitats, and in the United States, they very frequently encounter rabbits. Both coyotes and rabbits live in similar habitats, and this makes rabbits ready prey for coyotes. Coyotes are omnivores, but a large part of their diet is made of carrion, insects, small rodents, and they also scavenge on dead animals too.
Raccoons, mostly found in North America, are medium-sized mammals known for breaking into houses and feed on the leftover food and small pets. They are one of the smartest
rabbits, and they can easily harm the young rabbits in the absence of the mother. Their hand-like paws help them to catch prey, and they tear the salon of the rabbits with their sharp teeth, but in the wild, they attack rabbits that are in their range since they can’t compete with the speed.
Bears feed on a wide variety of food which includes plants, roots, birds, nuts, berries, fruits, honey, insects and other small animals like rabbits. They are opportunistic feeders; when no source of meat is available, they feed on vegetation which covers 90% of their diet, but they prefer eating meat whenever available. Their diet mainly depends on the species and the season.
In the Arctic regions, the Polar Bears prefer seafood, and they don’t feed on rabbits since rabbits are scarce in the Arctic region. Bears aren’t effective predators to rabbits, as the rabbits are fast, small and agile, and the bears can’t catch them easily. But they will devour them if they come across one.
Snakes are legless reptiles that feed primarily on small animals like rabbits, mice, rats, frogs and other reptiles like lizards. Large snakes like boas, pythons and rattlesnakes hunt rabbits and are capable of swallowing them whole. However, adult rabbits are quick and can sense predators from a distance with the capability to defend against snakes. Therefore they do not make an easy meal for these scaled reptiles. Although when killed, the adult and larger rabbit species such as the Flemish Giant are first suffocated and then they are swallowed.
The rabbit kits, on the other hand, are easy prey since they do not have quick reflexes, and their eyes stay closed for about a week. The newborn rabbit kits are immobile. Hence, it gets easier for snakes to snatch and feast on them.
Lizards are of different types and different sizes, and their diet mainly depends on their size. Large-sized lizards like Komodo depend on animal flesh, and they hunt animals from rabbits to deer. For the medium-sized Monitor lizards, rabbits are an important part of their regular diet. Iguanas are also large-sized, but they don’t feed on rabbits; they feed on greens from trees and vines. They also feed on birds’ eggs whenever they happen to find a nest.
Apart from these animals listed above, wolverine, weasels, stoat, badgers, and ferrets prey on rabbits too.
Humans eat Rabbits
The meat of a rabbit is tender and lean, and humans find it delicious. Traditionally, rabbits are consumed in large numbers in many parts of the world, mainly by tribal people. Many tribes from different corners of the world have been hunting rabbits for more than thousands of years for meat and fur.
Humans are reportedly the top hunters of the rabbits. Today the demand for rabbits in the world is fulfilled by different rabbit farms. A recent analysis showed that China, Italy, Cyprus, and France are the largest consumers of rabbits in the world. People say that the flavour and texture of a rabbit are quite similar to a chicken, and they are eaten by French and Italians as the Americans eat chicken.
New Zealand people feed on rabbits as livestock since they are low maintenance to breed and convert as a great source of protein.
Full List of Rabbit Predators: