Wolves are apex predators and will hunt other wild animals for food in the wild. Wolves generally tend to hunt larger animals, like elk, moose, and deer, but on occasion will hunt and eat rabbits. Hunting and chasing a rabbit for food uses a lot of the wolf’s energy and only gives the wolf a small meal. If you notice a wolf hunting rabbits, there’s a strong chance the wolf is starving and desperate for food.
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Still, if you have wolves in your area and keep your pet rabbits outdoors, it is a good idea to keep your rabbits safe. Using a solid outdoor hutch that is predator-proof can help deter a wolf attack. While wolves are not likely to hunt rabbits in the wild, they are opportunistic predators and would not pass up easy prey.
Are Rabbits Easy Prey?
For some wild animals, rabbits are easy prey. Predators like eagles and hawks can swoop down onto a rabbit from above, rendering a pet rabbit relatively helpless. However, rabbits are not that easy for a wolf to catch. Rabbits have excellent ears that allow them to hear the predator coming. Plus, rabbits have a wide range of vision, allowing them to spot an approaching wolf from just about any angle.
If a wolf manages to get close enough to chase a rabbit, the rabbit’s speed and agility are far better than a wolf’s. A rabbit can run up to 30 mph and can run in a tight zig-zag pattern which is hard for a wolf to track. A rabbit usually has to make it back to its burrow or nest to evade a wolf. However, if a wolf manages to catch up to a rabbit, the rabbit has very few defenses that can match the strength of a wolf’s jaws and teeth.
What Types of Wolves Eat Rabbits?
Although a rabbit is not the preferred meal for a wolf, a wolf will eat a rabbit if the animal is desperate and can get an easy meal. The most likely attack from a wolf will likely be from a red wolf. These wolves are more diminutive and prefer to hunt smaller prey like rabbits and squirrels.
A gray wolf may hunt and eat a rabbit in desperate situations, but this is unlikely. Gray wolves are much larger than red wolves and prefer big prey. Usually, a gray wolf will hunt deer, caribou, moose, or elk instead of small rodents. If a wolf attacks your rabbits, a red wolf is a likely culprit.
Can Rabbits Fight Off An Attacking Wolf?
The first line of defense for a rabbit will always be to run away. Rabbits are incredibly fast, and once they reach their burrow or den can usually evade capture. If a rabbit doesn’t have a chance to run away, rabbits can fend off attacking animals by kicking and clawing. Rabbits have been known to “box” attacking animals with their hind legs, using their sharp claws to cut and scratch predators. If picked up in the jaws of a predator, a rabbit will continue to kick and claw. The hope is that the predator will drop the rabbit, so it can run away safely.
Ultimately, if the rabbit cannot fend off the wolf with its sharp claws, it may resort to playing dead. This tactic seldom works, but the hope is the attacking animal will lose interest. Often, a rabbit playing dead results from a stress-induced fainting spell caused by the rabbit’s panic.
How Can Outdoor Rabbits Stay Safe?
There are many benefits to keeping your pet rabbits outside in a hutch, but you must ensure your rabbits stay safe. Many commercially available hutches advertised as outdoor safe don’t meet the minimum requirements for a secure, predator-proof hutch and will be no match for a hungry and determined wolf. Creating your own outdoor hutch design is the best option. When making your hutch, make sure you include:
- Weatherproofing – Your rabbits will be living outdoors, which means they’ll be subject to various weather conditions. You want your hutch to be waterproof and windproof to keep your rabbits warm and comfortable. Always have a sturdy solid roof and keep the hutch off the ground to prevent water from seeping into the floor.
- Escape-Proofing – Rabbits are crafty animals, and wild predators can be clever when they are determined to reach an easy food source. Be sure to keep your rabbits safe by using a solid and sturdy latch. Assume if a small child can figure out how to open the latch, then a rabbit can too. Because rabbits are diggers, you’ll want to bury chicken wire below the hutch to prevent rabbits from digging their way out of the enclosure.
- Predator-Proofing – Many predators that view rabbits as prey are very strong and can tear through conventional wire and mesh. You always want to use chain link mesh to protect your rabbits. Thin wire mesh or chicken wire is no match for a predator and should never be used for your rabbit’s hutch or exercise run.
Ensure that you give your rabbits plenty of room in their outdoor hutch with an enclosure of at least 6 feet x 2 feet x 2 feet. You’ll always want to ensure you use the same predator-proofing system on your rabbit’s exercise run to keep them safe when they are the most exposed in the open area.
How Do I Know There Are Wolves Present?
Knowing a wolf is present in your area is half the battle when it comes to protecting your pet rabbits. It is essential to understand the signs that a wolf, or wolf pack, is frequenting your yard. You may see evidence of wolves that includes:
- Prints – Wolves have very distinct paw prints typically more prominent than a dog’s. There will be between 60 and 70 cm between each stride, and usually, wolves walk in a straight line. If you have a pack of wolves in the area, expect to see long trails instead of individual prints.
- Sounds – Wolves make very distinct howling sounds to alert their pack to changing conditions. The howl is very specific and different from what a dog or a coyote sounds like.
- Droppings – You may see wolf droppings in or around your area. Usually, droppings are rope-like and tapper at the end. The scat may be about 1.5 inches around and can include fragments of fur or bone. It is common to see elk or moose fur peppering wolf droppings.
Can I Deter Wolves from Visiting?
One of the best ways to prevent a wolf attack is to make sure you deter them from visiting your yard. To keep wolves away, consider installing a fence around your property. The physical barrier will prevent wolves from approaching your outdoor rabbit hutch. If you are not able to build a fence, you can try to:
- Remove food sources by keeping garbage locked away.
- Keep grass and shrubs cut low to remove hiding areas.
- Pick up fallen fruit, which could be a tempting meal.
- Add lighting to deter wolves.
- Stop feeding pet cats and dogs outdoors where wolves can smell the food.
While a wolf is unlikely to hunt and eat a rabbit during regular times, food and resource scarcity can make a wolf hunt a rabbit. Although a rabbit is quick and can usually outrun a wolf, there is little a rabbit can do to defend itself if the rabbit is caught. The smaller red wolf commits most rabbit attacks by wolves. Always be aware of a wolf is in your area and keep your pet rabbits secured in a predator-proof outdoor hutch.