As prey animals, rabbits are unfortunately a food source in the wild for many other animals. Badgers are known to eat rabbits in their natural habitats, but they are a rare threat to a pet rabbit that is kept indoors. Rabbits in hutches or outdoor enclosures, or those allowed to roam outside for exercise, are at risk if badgers are found in the area.
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The average pet rabbit isn’t exposed to many of its natural predators when kept indoors only. But many pet owners try bringing their rabbit outdoors for fresh air, sun exposure, and exercise. Others may build entire hutches or enclosures that are on the ground so the rabbit can eat grass and dig. However, this puts your pet at extra risk for an attack from a predator. Even in suburban areas, it may be possible for a badger to have a den nearby. Rural areas in certain countries are even more likely to expose a pet rabbit to badger dangers. If you’re asking “Do badgers eat rabbits?“, the answer is yes. But before you worry, realize that this particular problem may not apply to you depending on your geographical location.
Where Do Badgers Live?
While many of the animals called badgers aren’t that closely related by genetics, they are all squat animals similar to small bears in appearance. They tend to have wide, flat heads with long muzzles and sharp teeth. Short legs used for digging distinguish them from animals like foxes, raccoons, and coyotes. They are predators native to North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Some badgers are as large as dogs, while others are as small as minks. The most commonly pictured type is the European badger, which has a dog-like look and distinct black and white stripes. However, there are badgers that might prey on pet rabbits in most countries. The American Badger is found throughout the West, upper Midwest, North East, and Southwest portions of the country, but not in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic areas. You may not have badgers in your area, so check for local wildlife listings before assuming it’s a common predator in your area.
The American badger is Taxidea taxus. Even in the parts of the country where it is found, it is relatively rare. There are many other animals that can threaten rabbits that are far more common. In Europe, the European badger is Meles meles. It’s slightly more common than its American counterpart, but still not a common predator in urban or suburban areas. It can become a serial predator of rabbits kept in hutches or barns in rural areas.
Badgers dig burrows in the ground known as setts. They use powerful claws to do this, which makes it easy for them to burrow into enclosures where rabbits and other animals are kept. Chickens can also become a common prey of these predators if they’re in the area. Badgers often dig their setts near homes to stay near a steady water or food source, making it hard to safely keep small livestock or pets like rabbits outside.
Why Do Badgers Eat Rabbits?
Badgers aren’t trying to eat fluffy little rabbits out of malice. They’re simply hungry and consider rabbits ideal prey because they’re located on the ground with the predator. While rabbits are fast and can defend themselves with kicks, badgers can surprise them by digging in where rabbits are taking shelter. This means they can also break into hutches and enclosures near the ground with their strong claws and teeth. It is possible to design enclosures to keep badgers and other larger predators out, but it’s important to regularly check for signs of damage and repair any digging or claw marks. Some larger breeds like Flemish Giant rabbits may have an easier time getting away from a slower predator like a badger, yet it’s best to keep your pets away from these animals in the first place.
What Rabbits are at Risk from Badgers?
Rabbits kept fully indoors are at little risk for attention from a badger, even if you live in an area where they are found. Pet owners that rely on outdoor hutches or that take their rabbits outdoors in pens or on leashes should be the ones most concerned about asking “Do badgers eat rabbits?” Even with a watchful owner close by, a badger can move surprisingly fast towards something they see as food. Even humans are intimidated by these large predators, which can weigh up to 40 lbs in the US and 25 lbs in Europe. Badgers have occasionally entered homes, so stay on top of pest control within the home and close up any openings in the basement or crawlspace to ensure there’s no chance of a predator getting near your indoor pets. If you do bring your rabbit outdoors for any amount of time, use a safe enclosure that protects them from predators. Badgers tunnel, dig, claw, or gnaw their way in when they want something. A badger will return over and over again, so you may need to move a rabbit indoors for a few months until the predator loses interest if you notice one is visiting your hutch or barn.
Signs of Badgers Visiting the Area
The biggest sign of a badger in the area, regardless of the particular species, is digging. Badgers dig relatively large burrows and tend to leave small piles of loose soil near the entrance. The hole is relatively shallow and about one foot wide, but that can generate a lot of soil that is often more noticeable than the hole itself. Badgers are reclusive and active mostly at night. That makes it hard to spot them directly. Look for footprints with five distinct toe pad prints and large claw marks. Droppings look like those of cats or small dogs, and tend to be clustered in small pits dug near the burrows to mark territory. Once a badger moves in, you may be limited by your state or region’s laws regarding wildlife protection. Badgers are protected in many parts of the world and can’t be moved or harassed.
How to Prevent Badgers from Harming Rabbits
Reinforcing any outdoor enclosures, pens, barns, or hutches used for housing rabbits is key in any badger territory. Don’t wait until a badger is digging a burrow near the rabbits or gnawing on their hutches to take action. Building the enclosures with predator protection in mind is the only way to keep your pet rabbits safe. Whenever possible, keep the hutches or cages at least three feet above the ground. This will keep badgers and similar predators like foxes from reaching the rabbits. However, you may still need to secure the hutches further from climbing predators like raccoons.
For enclosures and pens that are located on the ground, consider trenching around the edges and burying some of the wire to keep badgers from digging under. Use a 16 to 14 gauge welded wire mesh that’s 1 inch by 2 inches for the main enclosure, then reinforce this with chain-link fencing to keep dogs, badgers, and foxes out. Chain-link on its own is too large and would let smaller rabbits out and many predators in, but it’s a good reinforcement when combined with another smaller type of fencing or wire. Chicken wire isn’t strong enough to keep badgers out of enclosures or pens built for rabbits. It can be combined with chain-link or welded wire but works best when only used for the sides of catches or hutches kept above the ground. Don’t rely on store-bought enclosures alone since most aren’t designed to withstand the kind of force a badger can generate with their claws or teeth.
What Other Predators Put Rabbits at Risk?
Badgers aren’t the only predator that can threaten a pet rabbit. Other common predators in the US and Europe alike include:
- Domestic dogs and cats roaming the neighborhood
- Hawks, owls, and even crows or buzzards
- Minks and weasels
- Larger snakes.
Rabbits are safest when indoors where no predators can get them. If you do plan to take your rabbit out on a harness and leash, keep them physically close by and watch out for other animals at all times. Make sure any outdoor pens or hutches you use are predator-proof as well.