How do Wild Rabbits Stay Warm in the Winter?
If it’s a wild rabbit, then it does not need any help from humans, as they are flourishing to live in cold temperatures. Wild rabbits are just similar to domesticated pets.
Do you think rabbits died in the winter season before humans started sheltering them? Do you think about how they can get food in the winter as humans do not feed them?
Are the wild rabbits naked? Why they do not hibernate during winter? These are all the questions that arise in your mind about wild rabbit’s survival in the winter season. Rabbits make adjustments in their lifestyle to stay warm in the winter.
Wild rabbits are used to survive in extreme temperatures, they are very well equipped. They know very well how to thrive in cold temperatures. They are so well equipped, even they do not hibernate during the winter. They end shedding during the fall and grow thick fur in the winter that keeps them warm. They make underground hutches to stay warm.
Wild rabbits do not need help from humans, as they have gone through lots of adaptation and evolution and learned ways to stay warm in the winter.
How do Wild Rabbits Stay Warm in the Winter?
Wild rabbits adapt to winter, which helps the rabbits to stay warm in the winter. There are many changes that the rabbit has to go through to accommodate during the winter season to survive and stay warm.
There are some of the winter adaptation listed below that rabbits have to go through to survive.
Grow thick furs:
Wild rabbits also tend to live in groups. This means that there is another bunny on-hand to share the body heat to keep them warm in winter.
This coupled them to grow thick winter furs, which helps them to keep them warm in the winter.
Rabbits grow thick furs during winter to survive the harsh conditions.
Build underground borrows:
wild rabbits built up the deep underground warrens as far as possible.
This protects them from the rain, wind and other harsh atmospheric conditions.
Wild rabbits go out to exercise and eat. Once the weather changes, they will again go back to the burrows after eating the food.
They dig deep holes helps wild rabbits to stay warm in the winter.
They keep near the agricultural areas or near the bushes or trees where they easily get their food.
Maintain body temperature:
Rabbits are vulnerable to cold environment.
Wild rabbits fill their nest with grass and straw, which acts as the perfect insulator that helps to keep maintain their body temperature.
This helps the rabbit to maintain a body temperature of around 102-103 degrees Fahrenheit.
During winter rabbits stay sitting all day at the same place to conserve the body heat.
Production of heat in rabbits:
Wild rabbits keep themselves warm by burning the fat in their brown adipose tissue. Fat exists in the form of brown or white adipose tissue.
White adipose tissue called white fat, it is the standard fat that stores energy in the large fat droplets. These fat gather around the body and insulate the body organs, thus a wild rabbit stays warm in the winter.
Brown adipose tissue fat takes less space to store the same amount of energy in the body as the white fat does. When brown fat burns it turns to heat. This process is called thermogenesis.
Results show that rabbits burnt the brown adipose tissue for heat production. Rabbits brown adipose tissue produces heat by oxidizing glucose and fat from food.
Rabbits usually reduce their activity in order to preserve their body heat energy.
They decrease their activity when there is no more food left near the surrounding.
Fat stores are used to maintain the internal body temperature in the cold weather and less for the movement’s purpose.
What wild rabbits eat during winter to stay warm?
Wild rabbits have good sniffing ability, so they are good at finding their food if it cold weather, even if the food sources are lacking.
When there is not enough supply of their favorite grasses such as hay, clover, berries, etc.
Then they rely on two of the main food sources that help to save them from cold weather and stay warm.
Wood-based food sources:
Wood-based food sources include tree bushes, tree twigs, bark from trees, as well as, fallen fruits such as crab apples, woody plants such as willow, birch and white oak trees, etc.
Many times, wild rabbits also find out the winter quarters near the agricultural fields where they find waste agricultural grains, such as soybeans, wheat, corn, and sorghum.
These could be the highly nutritious pack for the wild rabbits to survive in the winter season and keep them warm.
Rabbits can eat other than plants if they do not find any wood-based sources or plants, such as it could be snails, moths and other insects also.
Partially digested feces:
Sometimes, rabbits eat their own feces up to 80% to obtain vitamin B produced by the bacteria as first, the food will go through the large intestine.
Wild rabbits usually consume their poop in the winter because of their insufficient digestive tracts.
Ingesting their own feces allows the rabbit to obtain more vitamin B, from the food they have already eaten. This helps them stay warm in the winter.
This technique or practice allows the rabbit to make more out of the food that is available to them, and fulfill the nutrients need.
This practice helps the wild rabbit to survive the scarcity of food in the winter season.
Where do wild rabbits go during the winter season?
Wild rabbits do not get any benefit from the help of humans in the winter. How do these rabbits stay safe and warm in the winter?
Wild rabbits usually do not hibernate in the winter season. So they find deep spaces, dig holes and find closed-in warm spaces to survive like in hollow rock piles, logs and brush piles.
Wild rabbits usually live within the 5-acre area. During the winter season, rabbits take more wood-based food sources such as tree twigs, barks, etc.
They stay enclosed in their territory and do not wander around much to safe themselves from cold.
As rabbits eat a lot of foodstuffs to build up a layer of insulating fat in the body, this will keep them warm in the winter.
Rabbits also grow the thick layer of furs that helps them to stay warm in the winter.
This shows us, how wild rabbits survival of chances is largely dependent on their nutrition and the availability of their food sources.
Where do wild rabbits make a shelter to keep warm during winter?
Wild rabbit may leave in the same environment as they do in the summer. But they normally find that places that help them to provide shelter from the cold weather.
Cold weather often leads to a loss of vegetation bulk, which means that predators can easily find wild rabbits.
Thus it is not easy to survive in the twigs and stems, therefore, they have to find that shelter places where they can feel safe from predators and eat without getting harassed.
Wild rabbits seek for someone’s garden shed, a thick tangle of conifer trees, a secluded borrow, a cavity in the tree, solid fences and it could be evergreen trees, etc. This makes helps wild rabbits to stay warm in the winter.
Some rabbits also change their color, so they blend in the white and grey landscape of the winter.
They mostly feed on the things they find in the wild, fallen fruits, tree buds, rose hips, etc.
During the winter season, you may also notice the wild rabbits in your yard, as they come at night to feed on bird seed which falls from bird feeders.
If your home has enough space to hide and fulfill their food requirement, then it will be an ideal place for the wild rabbits to seek shelter in.
What temperature do rabbits survive in the winter season?
Rabbits are cold-weather animals, they like winter than the summer season. They love to enjoy winter, play and exercise in the cold than during summer.
Thus, rabbits allow certain body adaptations to tolerate the cold temperature that is even less than the 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
If rabbits are exposed to wet or damp conditions, then it will lead to pneumonia.
However, older rabbits are more prone to arthritis during winter or damp conditions. Arthritis is a painful condition for the rabbit as it may lead to several severe complications such as sore hocks and fly strikes etc.
Thus, rabbits are in great danger to develop hypothermia as it may lead to a decrease the body temperature below 100 degrees Fahrenheit rectal temperature.
Hypothermia is the point at which body start loses heat faster than it produces heat, as leads to a drop in body temperature.
Condition of hypothermia in rabbits:
Rabbits must stay warm in the winter. During winter, rabbits with the hypothermia will no longer be able to produce heat after the heat has been lost to the environment.
This would lead to a slow down in normal breathing and heart rate in hypothermic rabbits.
According to rectal body temperature, the severity of hypothermia in rabbits is determined by three main levels:
- Mild could be between 85-89 degrees Fahrenheit
- Moderate could be between 71-79 degrees Fahrenheit
- Severe could be between 32-47 degrees Fahrenheit
Thus, a wild rabbit could only survive if the external heat is applied to return the core temperature to normal conditions.
In most extreme cases, where temperature leads to severe, causing the ears and other external appendages to cool down, it leads to irreparable tissue damage.
Does wild rabbit hibernate in cold conditions?
The simple answer is rabbits do not hibernate in the winter season. Thus, they behave in the same way as they are throughout the year.
They usually do not hibernate as other mammals do in the winter such a bear etc.
Thus, rabbits tolerate the winter season better than the warm conditions. They are mostly active in the cold season.
In the winter season, they are continuously seeking in search of food sources to keep them warm and survive in this weather.
People guessed that they do not see rabbits in winter as they are hibernating.
The reason is that in cold weather rabbits are mostly active during the morning before the sun shines and at night time.
Thus, at this time the weather is milder than usual, and in the darkness, their chances of being caught by the predator are also reduced.
At this time, they seek their food. In the wild, they spend much of their time resting under the burrows and vegetation.
This is why people usually do not see them often to wander around and playing during the daytime.
As rabbits do not hibernate, it does not mean that they do not sleep. Rabbits take a good amount of sleep. They sleep eight hours per day exact. They take a complete eight hours’ nap for a short period of time like twenty-five minutes each or even throughout the day.
If someone sees the wild rabbit outside their house or in their yard area, it means they have found the source of food nearby.
However, you know rabbits undergo behavioral and diet changes during the winters only.
Why do rabbits do not hibernate in the winter?
Hibernation involves sleeping for the whole season, it means to set the entire body into a dormant and inactive state.
This readily means that your body processes such as digestion of food is happening at a much slower rate than usual.
In winter, due to the shortage of food in extreme temperatures, animals such as rodents like squirrels, bears and some species of rattlesnakes hibernate during winter as they may die if they do not hibernate.
Thus, for the wild rabbits, this is not the problem, as for them food is available throughout the year.
Rabbits hunting during winter:
Thus, the lack of food is not only the only problem in the cold season that rabbits have to go through.
They have to face even the more bitter challenges for their survival in extreme conditions.
Mostly wild rabbits are being hunted by their main predators during the cold.
Wild rabbits are being hunted by owls, hawks, snakes and other winged animals from the sky and the other bobcats and house cats on the ground.
Humans try to shoot and target wild rabbits as prey for their recreational sport or to protect their crops.
Thus, during winter the chances of survival for the rabbits become slim too.
How to help wild rabbits during winter?
Attracting wild rabbits in your yard is not a good idea as it can make rabbits survive on unnatural food source ways and make them dependent on you.
Thus, rabbits could destroy your yards, as they could also be the carrier of some fatal diseases, which could be problematic if you had the children and pets at home.
Leave the natural foods like the tree twigs, shrub buds and small branches on the ground in your yard for the rabbits to eat in the winter.
Avoid putting fruits or vegetables in the yard for rabbits in the winter season, as it may attract other wild animals like raccoons or possums.
If you continue to do so then rabbits will rely on you for food and do not look for the food on their own.
So avoid giving them food on a routine basis, as they get used to it and then they do not rely on themselves.
Thus, wild rabbits are very well equipped to survive in the extreme cold temperatures. They do not hibernate during the winter.
Rabbits are most active in the winter and seek for food source during the dawn and dusk, and save themselves from the predators.
We also look that rabbits eat wood-based ingredients and also ingest their feces to get more nutrients to tolerate the extremities.
They cover themselves through thick furs and hide in the underground digs and holes during the cold weather.
Thus, wild rabbits during the winter season undergo diet and behavioral changes to save and survive themselves.
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