This article will look at whether or not rabbits hibernate in the winter.
In order to find out whether or not rabbits hibernate in the winter, it is necessary to first consider what being a ‘true’ hibernator involves.
True hibernation is an extreme measure taken by animals who live in cold climates in order to survive through the winter.
It involves lowering their metabolic rate so much that they can survive, without food or water, for long periods of time; sometimes for several months at a time. Thus, only creatures that live in cold climates can be said to truly hibernate.
Do Rabbits Hibernate in the Winter?
Most rabbits are not-true hibernators, as the vast majority of such creatures live in warmer climates. However, there are a few species of rabbit which do live in colder climates and so must hibernate to survive.
For instance, this occurs in both the snowshoe hare and Arctic hare. Such creatures are able to lower their own body temperatures by more than 10 degrees Celsius and can also lower their heart rate significantly too.
Some smaller rabbits have even been known to hibernate for up to 5 months at a time! Clearly, this is much different from the situation experienced by humans or dogs during the winter months when we might prefer to snuggle indoors rather than brave the cold outside.
However, most rabbits who live in colder climates do not hibernate. Instead, these creatures are known as ‘crepuscular’ animals.
This means that they only hibernate if temperatures drop too far or if food becomes scarce. Thus, even in these cases, it is only one night that such an animal will remain inactive and in so doing reduce its body temperature to around 10 degrees Celsius.
So, it might seem from this article that there are very few rabbits who truly hibernate; after all snowshoe hares and Arctic, hares are very rare species. However, a look at the other members of their family reveals a rather surprising fact …
How do rabbits stay warm in the winter?
They get help from their families.
Rabbits are social creatures; in fact, they live in groups known as ‘warrens’. These groups of rabbits usually consist of a dominant breeding pair and their offspring, all of whom assist each other in the search for food and the protection of the group.
This social structure means that rabbits who live in colder climates can use members of their family to keep warm as well as themselves. The dominant males and females will lower their body temperatures almost to a normal level so that they don’t overheat themselves in order to keep the nest warm for newborns or injured members of the warren.
Additionally, rabbits are also able to use their whiskers to monitor the temperature. The whiskers are situated above their front paws and are used for both finding foods as well as helping the rabbit judge distances such as when reaching for something in a high place.
Whiskers can also be used for temperature monitoring; each time they move it releases a new supply of blood into the follicles which helps keep the tissue warm, so that at any time the creature may flick its whiskers in order to help warm up its body once more.
It is thought that this is why rabbits often have such ragged-looking whiskers; they were once longer but have been broken repeatedly during the struggle to find food in the winter months.
Where do rabbits nest in winter?
In order to find out where do rabbits nest in winter, it is first necessary to consider what happens in the summer. During this period of time, female rabbits who are ready to mate will often have their own burrows which they will use for as long as they can remain pregnant.
In the wild rabbits can give birth to around 4 kits per litter; each of which needs their mother’s milk for around a month. Thus, if all goes well, a single rabbit mother can produce around 8 new baby bunnies every year. Thus it is important that they start with a nice spacious burrow.
In the wild, rabbits will usually have a burrow or two which are close to each other, but most will also have a larger number of smaller burrows dotted around as well; this is often referred to as a warren.
Thus, during the spring and summer months, most rabbits will stay together in order to protect the young from predators. If you look at your own pet rabbits then this is probably one of the reasons why you might see them all sleeping together in such large groups. They are trying to conserve heat by keeping warm together!
So where do rabbits nest in winter? The answer lies in those burrows that they dug last June.
What do rabbits eat in the winter?
Rabbits are plant eaters, so they probably won’t eat your Christmas tree. However, they do vary their diets with foods such as carrots, apples, lettuce, and dandelion leaves.
The fact that rabbits are herbivores means that they enjoy nibbling on a huge number of different vegetables; in fact, there is very few greens which these creatures will not eat. This species is not fussy and will even eat grass in order to make up for any shortfall in the vegetables that they require.
During the winter months though, these creatures simply go into survival mode; that is to say, they switch from eating fresh food to eating whatever dried food they might have stored away.
Do rabbits need heat in the winter?
Rabbits are able to withstand extremely low temperatures, and this is because of their thick coats. In fact, these animals have been known to survive in below zero weather conditions by simply digging holes in the snow.
This is why most people assume that rabbits do not need heat in the winter, but it must be remembered that even with their thick fur rabbits still get cold if they don’t have a way to generate heat!
What do Bunnies do in the winter?
Most rabbits burrow underground to escape the cold. They will create a tunnel that is at first horizontal and then descends at an increasing angle. The entrance of the burrow can usually be located by their droppings or by a muddy patch on the ground.
Interestingly, rabbits also grow thicker fur in the winter to protect against cold temperatures.
How do rabbits move in winter?
In order to avoid being seen by predators during the winter, rabbits tend to keep low and slow. They are able to move along at around 40 km/h when pursued by a predator, but normally they keep to around 25 km/h in order to conserve energy.