Rabbits are beautiful and peaceful creatures to watch grazing away in your yard. Yet it’s quite difficult to tell how old an adult rabbit is. That’s probably left you wondering how long do wild rabbits live?
The average life expectancy of a wild rabbit is 2-9 years old. Cottontail rabbits have the shortest life span on average 1-2 years old. Most wild rabbits die as infants. Several factors affect the lifespan of a wild rabbit including their species, habitat, diet, health, and local ecosystem.
If you have a few bunnies that visit your yard regularly, you may be curious how long they will survive. This can help you understand their behavior and if there is anything you can do to help them live longer.
This guide will take you through everything you want to know about a wild rabbit’s lifespan. You’ll learn what to expect from each species and how you can minimize threats to their survival.
So let’s take a closer look.
How Long Do Wild Rabbits Live?
The age a will rabbit can live to will depend on each species. Just because some rabbits can live to around 9 years old doesn’t mean that all rabbits will live this long.
There will always be outliers from each species that will defy the averages and live a lot longer than expected. These rabbits are the exception.
The reality is that most wild rabbits will die as infants. That’s why rabbits ill often have large litters. They are aware most of those baby bunnies won’t survive. So when some die at least a few more will survive.
The species of rabbit plays a huge part in how long a rabbit will survive in the wild. Take a look at the average age of each wild rabbit species.
|Wild Rabbit Species
You’ll see that there is quite a big age range amongst wild rabbit’s survival rates. Certain species can live a lot longer than others. That’s likely due to the environments they live in and how certain lifestyle factors can make them more vulnerable.
Let’s look at each factor that will affect the age any wild rabbit will survive to.
Factors affecting Wild Rabbit LifeSpan
1. Food Sources
Food availability is one of the main threats for wild rabbits. A steady food supply is essential for rabbits who need to grazer most of the day.
A wild rabbit’s diet mainly consists of grasses with other vegetation such as flowers and leaves too. In the winter wild rabbits will eat twigs and bark for nutrients.
If the rabbit population is too high and there is a lack of a good food source then a rabbit may starve. This is common in wintertime when there is thick snowfall or frozen ground making it hard to access limited food.
Wild rabbits have adapted to survive through limited food supplies in winter. Rabbits can go up to 8 days without eating. This depends on how much emergency fat supplies they have.
Rabbits may resort to eating foods that are not suitable for them. This can cause nutritional deficiencies or illness which leaves them vulnerable.
Pregnant and nursing rabbits need a good food supply for their babies. Without a good food source, baby bunnies are likely to be too weak or born with health issues which they can’t survive.
Wild rabbits are prey for a lot of wildlife. Common rabbit predators include:
Rabbits can often make up around 80% of these animals’ diets.
Most rabbits that are eaten as prey are young, immature rabbits who have not learned how to outwit predators. Wildlife will often stalk rabbits or even trace their burrows to attack their litters.
Domestic cats and dogs can also be a big risk to wild rabbits. They are able to carry out their natural hunting behaviors on rabbits in your yard.
Due to their vulnerability rabbits have made a few changes to their behaviors to minimize the risk of being preyed upon. When rabbits are young their mothers will feed them only once per day and spend very little time foraging together, so as not to attract attention.
Rabbits will also choose a feeding spot based on the risk of predators rather than the quality of the food. They can also change their coat color in winter to help them stay hidden when there is less foliage to hide in.
Hunting by humans can also be a big threat to rabbits. There are 1.3 million rabbit hunters in the USA alone. Some of these rabbits are killed for practice or sport, and others for food and fur.
A rabbit’s general health will have a big impact on how long they live. Disease and parasites are the main cause of ill health in wild rabbits.
Common diseases wild rabbits contract are:
- Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease
These diseases can be caused by parasites such as fleas or ticks. Some can also manifest when rabbits are injured, starving, or in contact with other infected rabbits.
Wild rabbits don’t have access to medicine to treat these diseases and will likely die from them. Some of these diseases can spread quickly amongst rabbit species that are sociable and live close together.
Disease is a natural population control method amongst rabbits. The use of insecticides can cause reduce the number of insects that pass on these diseases. For rabbits that may seem a good thing, but it leads to uncontrolled populations.
If rabbits don’t die off from disease, there are fewer resources to go around. This likely leads back to a lack of resources for the rabbit community in the local area.
The habitat that a rabbit lives in can make them more susceptible to injuries. A rabbit that is injured cannot flee predators, search for food or become vulnerable to infection.
Rabbits that live near urban areas are at a greater risk of injury caused by humans. The most common injury to rabbits in urban areas is being run over by a car. Most rabbits will die from a car collision. However, they may also survive but with a significant injury such as broken bones or wounds.
Rabbits can also be at risk of devices used by hunters such as traps, snares, or guns. Gardeners and farmers can also cause injuries by using poisons or even insecticides. If a rabbit doesn’t die it can be left with either an internal or external injury which leaves them vulnerable to wildlife predators.
Rabbits can even become stress by the sounds of gunshot wounds in the area. This can cause them to panic and cause themselves and injury.
Rabbits need to make special adaptations to survive in harsh weather conditions. That’s because rabbits don’t hibernate in the winter.
Winter brings wet and frosty weather such as snow and ice. These weather conditions can be fatal for rabbits especially if causes the outdoor temperature to dip too low. Once temperatures hit below 30°F (-2°C) rabbit will start to suffer from hypothermia.
If they don’t have a safe place to shelter the winter conditions, or need to forage for food, they are likely to die from freezing or disease caused by the cold.
Underground burrows can help keep them warm and sheltered. Unfortunately, cottontail rabbits don’t dig their own burrows so they rely on finding burrows other animals have made. This can often a fatal for them if a cold snap sets and they don’t have a burrow to rest in.
6. Social Behaviour
Sociable animals are much more likely to survive in the wild. This is due to shared resources such as food, body heat, habitat, and protection from predators.
Most rabbits are sociable animals, yet the cottontail rabbit is a solitary species. This can be useful in times when there are limited resources and they don’t have to compete. Yet they also miss out on all the survival benefits that come from being social creatures.
As solitary creatures cottontails can be quite aggressive and territorial towards other rabbits. This behavior will often lead to injury to themselves or the other rabbits.
Winter can be hard for cottontails as they don’t share warrens with other rabbits. This means a lack of heat and shelter in the harsh winter conditions. Also, they can share knowledge of a good and safe food source.
A cottontail’s solitary behavior is likely to be one of the reasons they have such a short lifespan in the wild compared to other rabbit species.
How to help wild rabbits live longer
Wild rabbits don’t have a long lifespan. This is due to a lot of natural reasons but also a good part is due to human influences. There are a few ways that you can try to minimize your impact on the local rabbit population and help them to survive a little bit longer.
Let’s look a 5 ways you can help wild rabbits to live longer.
1. Protect from predators
You won’t be able to stop wild animals from killing the rabbits in your area. Yet domestic pets are a big threat to wild rabbit populations. Its estimated domestic cats kill up to 22 billion small mammals each year.
If your cat or dog is free-roaming, the risk to rabbits is a lot higher. You may need to consider using a collar with a bell to alert the rabbits of their presence before they attack.
Stopping your pets from hunting wild rabbits is also beneficial to their health. It stops them from contracting any disease or parasite that the wild rabbit may be carrying.
2. Don’t use pesticide
If you have a lovely landscaped yard that rabbits like to visit then you will more than likely be fighting off insects too.
Try not to use any chemical pesticides on your garden greenery. It may seem quick and convenient but it is so harmful to the local ecosystem.
Insecticides are full of harmful chemicals which are passed up the food chain from the plants. If a rabbit has a nibble on your grass or vegetation it can ingest these harmful chemicals which are likely to cause them health issues.
Encouraging more wild birds in your yard is a much more eco-friendly way to tackle insect problems.
4. Prevent Injury
If you find having rabbits in your yard a nuisance then there are natural ways you can deter them without causing injury to them.
You don’t need to trap, snare, or kill a rabbit to stop it from coming onto your property. That may fix the issue for that one rabbit but here are hundreds more that will take their place.
Simple solutions such as raised flowerbeds or using chicken wire can help keep rabbits away without harming them.
5. Have Winter provisions
Rabbits can struggle to find good sources of food in the winter. You can provide them with food sources in your yard.
Rabbits eat quite a specific diet and can become ill if you try to feed them unnatural food or scraps from your kitchen.
The best way to feed a rabbit in winter is to make sure your yard has a good supply of vegetation for them to access. You can create paths for them to access vegetation. You can also leave out small piles of bark or twigs that they like to munch on in winter.
Most rabbits will live to around 2 years old, however, for some species they will live longer than this.
The longevity of a rabbit will depend on various lifestyle factors. Things such as habitat, climate, food availability, health, and predators will all impact how long a rabbit will survive.
Humans can have a huge impact on rabbit death rates. Yet there are things you can do to help protect rabbit species in your local area and not negatively impact their chances of survival.