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What Do Wild Rabbits Do During Winter?

Nicole Cosgrove

Wild rabbits are one of the surest signs of springtime: As soon as young shoots and buds start coming up on trees and flowers, rabbits will be showing up in droves to snack on them. So, while you may be used to seeing these furry friends in the spring, summer, and into the fall… Why don’t you see them in the winter?

Even with their lush and fluffy coats, rabbits aren’t designed for cold weather. Because their native lands in Southwest Europe are so much warmer, even the most well-adapted rabbits have to make serious changes to their habits during the winter.

In this article, we’ll be looking at three things that wild rabbits do differently in winter: Where they go, how they survive, and what they eat. By the end of this article, you’ll have a much better picture of the life of wild rabbits during winter.

Let’s get started!

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Where Do Wild Rabbits Go During Winter?

cottontail wild rabbit in snow
Image: skeeze from Pixabay

For most wild rabbits, the events of their entire lives are held within a 5-acre area. For reference, that’s only about 4 and a half football field worth of space. This means that during the winter, they’ll either dig their own burrows or find a sufficiently sheltered place to weather the cold.

From this home base, they’ll make only short trips out to forage the food necessary to survive the winter. With crepuscular sleep cycles, wild rabbits are most active at dawn and dusk — the best times to avoid predators’ keen eyes.

How Do Wild Rabbits Survive the Winter?

While some animals will turn to hibernation to survive the winter time, rabbits do not need to. This means that by limiting their travels and finding as many food sources as they can, they will attempt to store as much energy as possible for staying warm and surviving the winter.

Sadly, wild rabbits do not have a high survival rate. Many cottontail rabbits (the most common type of wild rabbit in the U.S.) will live for less than a year in the wild, with winter temperatures and food shortages being a major cause of death.

What Do Wild Rabbits Eat During Winter?

Because fresh greens and grasses die off during the winter, wild rabbits must turn to different food sources during the coldest part of the year. Instead of searching for leaves or hay, they will turn to the barks of trees for the majority of their diet. Unlike the rest of the year, wild rabbits will break their herbivorous diet during the winter — occasionally eating insects, moths, and snails.

wild rabbit in snow
Image by Rex Landingham from Pixabay

Final Thoughts on Wild Rabbits in Winter

There’s no denying that life is tough for a wild rabbit. Between the constant threat of predators and the impending cold of winter, many are lucky to survive for more than a year. However, nature has a way of balancing all of this out: The bunnies that do survive the winter go on to procreate extremely quickly, always ensuring a healthy population of rabbits through the spring and summer.

Thank you to our friends at the Dickinson County Conservation Board, a valuable resource of information that we made use of in this article!


Featured Image: skeeze from Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.