If you are wondering what eats rabbits you are probably having an issue on your backyard farm. Let me be the first to say I am sorry for your loss.
Lots of animals eat rabbits if catch them. Both wild rabbits and domestic rabbits don’t really have that great of defense mechanisms. Their speed is what keeps them safe. They do have strong back feet but if one of the most common predators has them by the neck they are pretty much done anyway.
Next to chickens rabbits are a primary food source for wild animals. This is one of the key reasons why I am against letting your pet rabbit run loose in the yard. They are easy access to any predator.
It all depends on how you found the dead rabbit. This will tell you the most likely culprit for what could be eating your rabbits.
Adult Rabbits In A Hutch Or Pen Off The Ground
Let’s assume that your rabbits are in a hutch outside or a barn door was open. The animal had to be able to get to them. My rabbit hutch bottoms are over 3 feet off the ground. If something happened to one of my rabbits in the cage I know that my little 10-pound dachshund is off the hook.
It would have to be something that can climb on the wire and reach into the cage like a raccoon or a wild dog like a coyote.
Wild dogs can’t really do much except jump up and bite the toes of the rabbits. They can’t get their teeth through the wire in order to pull it apart.
And the only way they could get through is if they started to chew on the wood of a hutch. And in that instance, they would have had to be in their a while to be able to do that.
Wild birds like a great horned owl or something like that are not going to try to get into a cage. They like to swoop in and grab their prey off the ground.
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Adult Rabbits Not In An Inclosure
I have already said this is not a good idea to be letting rabbits have “free roam time” for this very reason. I’m not going to beat a dead horse. Just don’t do it.
Now here are the likely cuprates based on how you found the rabbit.
Dead, not much blood or possibly some bleeding out the nose – Very likely a domestic dog scared it and it broke its neck. Domestic dogs don’t usually kill a rabbit because they are hungry they just do the deed because their natural instinct kicks in went they saw a small thing moving around that looked like an easy target.
Not all dogs have a strong hunting instinct. BUT if the dog is a hunting breed or a herding breed these are the two most likely types of dogs to kill a rabbit.
My saint bernard couldn’t care less about the rabbits and when he was young would even try to play with my french lops. If you have dogs or know of any dogs in the area that get loose sometimes it is best to not tempt fate and keep them away from your rabbits.
Torn skin that looks plucked, eaten by the small intestine with little damage to the head. – Birds of prey are most likely the predator here. Hawks or a golden eagle can be very common in most places. A bald eagle isn’t as likely of an issue because they tend to nest next to a food source often by fresh water like a stream. So if you don’t live by a water source you probably don’t have to worry about them.
If the whole rabbit just disappeared – Red Fox, coyotes, or even snakes are the most likely if your rabbit just disappeared without a trace.
Not Likely But Possible Prayditors
Big cats in the cat family like bobcats in central America can certainly eat a rabbit but it would have to be in more remote areas. A large cat is not going to come into any urban areas. They hate that kind of noisy environment. If it was a predatory cat that ate your rabbit it is likely they would kill it where they found it but then take it with them.
Domestic cats are not likely to kill and eat rabbits because of their similar size. Unless they are a cat with a very high hunt drive. They would have to be a very young rabbit that is under a few pounds for a cat to want to do that. House cats typically stick with small birds as a part of their diet since they get their meals handed to them on a silver platter.
If you have small rabbits under 5 pounds it could be a raccoon but it’s not super likely unless the raccoon is desperate for food sources. They are small mammals and they don’t tend to tangle with an animal that is their size or even bigger in some cases.
However, if you found your rabbit still in the pen dead and had a lot of it eaten, the neck is snapped, and torn into it could be a raccoon. They tend to eat the head and part of the upper body.
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Baby Rabbits Still In The Nest
If you raise rabbits I highly recommend you count the litter within an hour or two of them being born. Then every day you go out to the rabbitry you need to count them so you can quickly figure out what happened so you can fix it.
If you are raising rabbits and you think there are some missing there are only a few options.
- They got out and fell through the wire.
- The mother ate them. (Yes this happens)
- Or a snake ate them.
Where I live a snake is pretty unlikely. You have to use your brain and see what do you see most often in your state.
Missing Rabbits From The Nest Box
If your young rabbit just disappeared and you can’t find any trace of them in the nest box (make sure you look WELL) they probably fell out of the nest box and because of their small size they fell through the wire on the sides of the rabbit cage or hutch.
There are two ways this can happen if the kits are too young to have their eyes open.
- First, they were nursing and they were still latched on when momma jumped out. I have had this happen more than once.
- Second, the nest box is not tall enough on all four sides OR the nest box is too full and the bedding is giving them just the boost they need to get out.
If you have low-sided nest boxes consider building taller ones. My French lop boxes are 10-12 inches tall. I quit cutting out the usual U or V shape on one side because this very thing was happening and the mother was not even using that side anyway. So why was I going to keep putting the kits in danger…
Your kits are not going to be trying to get out of the box until they are at least two weeks old. Hopefully, three fingers crossed. So if they are getting out at a really young age it is because they are falling out. See what you can do to keep that from happening.
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If You Found Pieces Of Young Rabbits
This is not going to be the answer you hoped but if you find pieces of a kit in the nest box it is likely the doe ate it. I have a whole blog post on why rabbits will do that and you can read it here.
The main reason being she is a first-time mom and doesn’t know what to do, she felt unsafe, or she thinks there is something wrong with the kit.
It is possible that the doe thought she was eating the afterbirth but that has never been a common issue.
A Snake Ate The Kits
If something like a large snake ate the kits you likely will find that the whole litter is gone. But this is also going to depend don’t the size of any openings you have in the cage because the snake has to be able to fit back out through where ever it came in. So if this was the case look for holes that a snake could have gotten through.
There wouldn’t be much blood or if there was it could have been from the doe attacking the snake IF you have a very protective breed. But with breeds like my French Lops they probably wouldn’t do much. A mother rabbit’s natural instinct is to run away from the next to get the predator to chase her not her kits. It’s not to attack them. So if her “running” away didn’t do anything there isn’t much she could have done.
I don’t consider my young rabbits safe from losses until they are 3 weeks old. Then once they are that big I still have to be careful they don’t get out of the cage due to a gap in the door. My cages are homemade because my rabbits are a giant breed and nothing you buy will work for them. So with that said I have to buy whatever latches I can find. Which can lead to gaps in the doors sometimes.
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Tips To Protect Your Rabbits From Natural Predators
Housing – The best way you can keep your rabbits safe is to keep them closed up in a hutch or cage in a barn that is several feet off the ground. This is going to keep them out of the reach of most natural predators. Below is what my outdoor rabbitry setup looks like.
If you have a pet rabbit and you get it out of ten NEVER leave it unattended in the backyard for even a second. All it takes is one second too late and a wild bird can be on your rabbit in two seconds flat. It only took our female dachshund two seconds to snap up a little three-week-old and break its neck.
If you need a bathroom break and you have the rabbit out take it with you and sit it on the bathroom floor. Like seriously it’s not worth the risk and wild predators are watching more than you realize.
Preditors Of Wild Rabbits
Here in North America, the wild cottontail rabbit is the most common wild rabbit in the united states. The rabbit population can be quite high in both rural and urban settings. Especially if you have things like a garden for rabbits to eat your fresh vegetables just sprouting up.
The most common rabbit predators are:
- Large Snakes
These larger animals will eat a large amount of wild rabbits in one season if they are the easiest prey available. We used to have dozens of them around and after one winter the coyotes significantly made a dent in the population of rabbits around your house.