20 animals that eat rabbit {and why rabbits have so many predators}

You probably know very well how cute rabbits are, and how fast they breed, especially during times of the year when the greenery is blooming and they have plenty of food. However, the high breeding rates exist for a reason; rabbits are considered prey in the food chain, and they have numerous predators that feed on them. They also do not have a strong defense mechanism, which makes them easy targets.

The animals that prey on rabbits the most are foxes, wolves, dingoes, lynxes, ocelots, cats, coyotes, wolverines, ferrets, weasels, badgers, stoats, raccoons, bears, eagles, owls, hawks, crows, snakes, lizards, and humans.

As the list shows, the list of their predators is quite long, and they can be eaten whether they are young rabbits or at their adult stages. Almost any carnivore in the areas they reside in is a potential threat, although mother rabbits will tend to protect their young by avoiding the babies to avoid drawing predator attention to them.

Their predators will also depend on whether the rabbits are domesticated or are living in the wild; wild rabbits are vulnerable to birds, snakes, and wild animals like wolves, while domesticated rabbits are vulnerable to being eaten by humans and domesticated animals like cats.

Animals that eat rabbits

  1. Foxes

Foxes are among the most common rabbit predators, as popular culture and folklore will tell you: in the food chain, foxes are secondary consumers while rabbits are primary consumers. While primary consumers tend to be herbivores, secondary consumers can either be carnivores or omnivores. The fox itself is an omnivore, so it can consume many food sources.

The fox and rabbit have a predator-prey relationship in the food chain, especially the red fox. Foxes also have an ability to quickly adapt to numerous environments, including agricultural lands, fields, forests, peat bogs, salt marshes, and even mountains.

While rabbits are a staple meal source for foxes, the fox will adjust its diet according to the area it resides in and the animals that live there. Other subspecies of foxes include the Swift Fox, Arctic Fox, Kit Fox, and Fennec Fox, and each subspecies will eat the rabbits available in its environment. It is good to note that foxes do not need to eat rabbits to survive, but these animals can become a staple of their diet.

Foxes do most of their hunting during the dusk and dawn hours, although they can hunt at any time. They use the stalking and pouncing method, since they have very good hearingabilities and can adjust their technique according to the size of animal they hunt.

  1. Wolves

Unlike foxes, wolves are carnivores; so their dietary source is other animals including rabbits. In most cases, wolves will eat ungulates, especially the injured, sick, young, or old animals. The average wolf consumes up to 20 pounds in weight every day, so it is safe to assume that they eat almost any animal they encounter as prey.

Rabbits are a part of their diet, although they will act as a supplement alongside their main food source that happens to be large animals. If there are no ungulates like deer that are available, they will turn to rabbits as a primary food source.

In certain areas such as Minnesota, however, the rabbit is among the primary food source of wolves after white-tail deer.

  1. Dingos

Found in Australia, dingos are wild dogs, although some are also found in some parts of southeast Asia. They are considered apex predators and are among the largest-size land predators in the country. They are opportunistic carnivores, and rabbits are a staple food source for them.

Their distribution is all over Australia beyond the countrywide-famous dingo fence, with their favorite habitats being the rocky terrain, grasslands, and woodlands. They prefer these areas due to the abundance of smaller prey, including rabbits.

In most cases, dingos will mostly consume meat, although they can also eat nuts, grains, and fruit sometimes. For their preferences in meat, these will mostly be small and medium-size animals, with most instances involving consumption of lizards, birds, rabbits, or rodents. They mostly do their hunting in packs, but a solitary dingo is enough to kill a rabbit.

  1. Lynx

There are three distinct subspecies groupings of lynxes, and each group will have its own preferences of prey, as well as habitat. They share some commonalities, such as very strong eyesight and excellent hearing abilities, which help them to spot and hunt their prey, while they also prefer hunting during the dusk and dawn hours, and rest during the day. These animals will consume different food sources, depending on the habitat they live in and the time of year.

Most of their diet consists of snowshoe hares, which comprise about 75% of their dietary consumption. Since most lynxes lives in northern temperate climates where there are fewer hunting opportunities, they can hunt down rabbits that live in their habitats if they see the need to do so.

They have excellent climbing abilities, so they mostly use a ‘sit and wait’ hunting strategy. They will climb a tree and wait for their unsuspecting prey to come close enough, as they are solitary hunters. When a mother lynx is training her cubs to hunt, they will usually hunt together once the cubs come of age, and rabbits are a good starting target to teach them how to develop stealth and speed. At certain times, the lynx will store leftovers through covering them under layers of snow.

  1. Ocelots

Small-size cats from the New World, their habitats range from northern Argentina to the southern part of Texas. Similar to their small-cat peers, they have excellent hearing and vision abilities; their eyes have special layers that collect light, allowing them to see just as well in nighttime as the daytime, while their smelling abilities are much better compared to those of humans. Although their scientific classification denotes them as predators, it is common to see potential prey such as birds and monkeys harassing them.

These animals are very solitary and are active during the night, or on cloudy and rainy days. If the area they live in does not have many hiding places, their survival chances are quite low and they will need to leave.

They mainly eat small rodents, as well as other animals like crabs, fish, young deer, iguanas, snakes, and birds. Rabbits are among the major food sources that they prefer, although they can adjust their menu depending on the season of the year.

  1. Cats

If you have a domesticated cat, regardless of whether it is pudgy or a picky eater, it will have its preferences when it comes to nutritional matters; but there are some animals they will find hard to resist as food sources, rabbits being among them. Since they are pure carnivores, they will only consume meat and any related items, and can hunt even larger mammals at times.

However, the larger members of the cat family such as tigers and lions are not averse to the idea of eating rabbits, although these small animals will only serve as an in-between snack. You should keep in mind that larger cats will avoid consuming rabbits as a main food source; they will only consume them as a snack, or when food supplies are scarce.

Other members of the cat family that prefer solitary hunting such as cougars and cheetahs will consume rabbits as well, but their smaller size means that the rabbit can only be consumed in one meal.

  1. Coyotes

Coyotes are hard to hunt and kill, but their apex predator status ensures that their food is not short in supply. Their habitat range comprises of deserts, mountains, forests, and plains of Central America, Mexico, the United States, and Canada. Their wide adaptability also allows them to survive in tropical areas as well, and they are solitary hunters in most cases.

They are omnivorous and opportunistic hunters, which allows them to eat almost anything to survive. 90% of their diet is comprised of smaller mammals, such as mice, rats, eastern cottontails, voles, ground squirrels, and prairie dogs. Additionally, they can eat vegetables and fruits during the autumn and winter times, and they will also subsist on small insects, small birds, and snakes.

However, rabbits do not comprise a major part of their diet, although they can consume them when the opportunity arises.

  1. Wolverines

With their physical characteristics of elongated snouts, long fur and short legs, it is easy to think of wolverines as smaller versions of brown bears. However, they are the largest members of the weasel family, with a wide habitat distribution spanning the Americas, Europe, and Asia. They are also omnivores and happen to be opportunistic feeders, with their diet depending on the specific habitat they reside in.

They tend to like specific habitats though, including tundra, taiga, and boreal forests. Their main nutritional sources are from smaller mammals such as rabbits, and they can dig into rabbit burrows in search for their food.

During the food-scarce periods of the year such as the winter months forces them to adopt a scavenger strategy, including feasting on dead animal corpses; whether the animals are large or small. They are also famous for their ability to burrow through the hibernating mammal burrows during these times. Therefore, although you can say that rabbits comprise a major aspect of a wolverine’s diet, they are not necessary to help it survive.

  1. Ferrets

Unlike most mammals, ferrets are obligate carnivores. They also prefer hunting at night and sleeping during the day, thanks to their highly developed hearing and eyesight.

For most ferrets, wild rabbits are a steady and reliable food source. These ferrets will not only kill and eat the rabbits, but also consume other small animals, including small birds, hedgehogs, possums, and rats. To shelter themselves from their enemies and larger predators, they will then use their burrows as a hiding place.

They are among the few animals that will not leave any portion to scavengers, interestingly enough. Due to their small intestines and high metabolic rates, they will consume even the bones without any adverse effects to their bodies. Their daily requirements for meat consumption is between 50 and 70 grams.

  1. Weasels

Unlike their seemingly gentle appearance, weasels are carnivores and are quite aggressive in terms of their hunting capabilities. They are the smallest members of their family, and also happen to be the smallest carnivores on earth. You can find them mostly in western and central Europe, as well as Asia, North America, and North Africa.

Similar to the other members of the weasel family, they also consume rabbits as a major food source. Although they have a small body size, cottontail rabbits and similar creatures are easy targets for them because they utilize pack hunting and strength strategies. Their method of consuming the carcasses of their victims involves crushing their spinal cords or heads from the neck.

Since they have very high metabolic rates, this allows them to consume a maximum of 40% of their body weight in one day.

  1. Badgers

When examining the preferred food sources of the badger, it seems strange that they prefer rabbits to most animals; but this is the case. They do not only consume rabbits though, but also worms and small insects.

Due to their omnivorous diet, they can consume both plant and animal matter. They are also adaptable in a wide range of environments, so you can find them in moorland, rural land, quarries, and forests.

  1. Stoats

Similar to badgers, stoats can consume rabbits without much issue. Preying on rabbits is also an interesting task, since they can trick their prey and then eat it later.

They accomplish this by employing a diversionary strategy; because they usually hunt in packs, one of the members will act strangely and attract the rabbit’s attention towards it. The closer the rabbit approaches, the easier it is for the other stoats to prey and eat the distracted rabbit.

  1. Raccoons

While these animals count North America as their original home, their habitat range has spread since the 20th Century due to their introduction in more places.

They are opportunistic and omnivorous feeders, with most of their diet consisting of plants and the occasional rabbits. However, their preference is for slower-moving creatures, which is why rabbits are not a major part of their diet plan.

  1. Bears

The diets of bears will vary on the season, habitats, the species of bear, and whether food is available or not. Therefore, they are not averse to eating anything, whether it is humans, vegetation, ants, honey, or deer.

For instance, a polar bear is more likely to consume seafood, as rabbits are not a major food source in the cold regions they live in. They will also eat other animals that are small or medium-size. On the other hand, a grizzly or brown bear is infamous for eating anything including people, as long as it is hungry. Rabbits are included in their food sources, since they prefer meat over vegetation.

  1. Eagles

There are different types of eagles, but the bald eagle and golden eagle are famous for including rabbits as part of their dietary sources. Although bald eagles will enjoy consuming fish to a large extent, they will also include rodents and small mammals like rabbits as a supplementary diet source.

Additionally, golden eagles tend to reside in remote areas, while their apex predator status allows them to have a wide hunting radius. Rabbits are an easy and nutritious target, acting as a simple meal for them and other birds of prey like Kestrels and Falcons.

  1. Owls

Owls will vary in size according to their species, but they all tend to be nocturnal; they will use their hearing abilities and a waiting approach when hunting for their prey. As soon as they spot a rabbit or smaller mammal, they will swoop down and kill it immediately.

  1. Hawks

Similar to eagles, there are plenty of hawk subspecies, such as the red-shouldered and red-tailed hawks. Hawks will generally feed on small mammals and birds, such as mice, squirrels, and rabbits.

  1. Snakes

Snakes are opportunistic feeders, and will eat anything as long as it is alive, depending on their physical size. Larger snakes can easily consume both adult and young rabbits, but smaller snakes will eat other sources of food and very young rabbits.

  1. Lizards

Lizards can include rabbits in their diet, although this depends on their size. The most common predator lizards will usually be the larger species like Komodo and Iguana lizards, while the smaller lizards will consume other animals and insects.

  1. Humans

Humans are the top rabbit predators, with many communities killing and eating rabbits for millennia. Modern people hunt down these animals for both their meat and fur as well.

Different rabbit predators and their main dietary habits

Predator
Diet preference
Fox
Omnivorous
Wolf
Carnivorous
Dingo
Omnivorous
Cat
Carnivorous
Coyote
Omnivorous
Lynx
Carnivorous
Wolverine
Omnivorous
Ocelot
Carnivorous
Weasel
Carnivorous
Ferret
Carnivorous
Stoat
Carnivorous
Badger
Carnivorous
Bear
Omnivorous
Eagle
Carnivorous
Owl
Carnivorous
Hawk
Carnivorous
Crow
Omnivorous
Lizard
Carnivorous
Snake
Carnivorous
Human
Omnivorous

Conclusion

Rabbits have very many enemies and predators, but this is offset by the very high birth rates and short gestation periods of these animals. 

FAQs

Which animals can kill rabbits without eating them?

Any carnivorous predator can do so, whether it is wild or domestic. These include dogs, cats, badgers, ferrets, and raccoons.

Are rabbits afraid of birds?

Yes, they are naturally wary of predators that include birds of prey, dogs, and cats due to their high death rates from these animals.