Last Updated on August 22, 2023 by keno
During winter when the ice grips the entire landscape, most animals hibernate to conserve their energy as well as survive the harsh condition. Do bunnies hibernate when the temperatures plummet? Keep reading to find out how rabbits cope in winter.
Do bunnies hibernate?
The short answer is no, rabbits don’t hibernate, nor do they undergo a radical transformation, unlike other animals such as bears, snakes, groundhogs, frogs, etc. Hibernation in the winter involves animals undergoing dramatic physiological transformations. Hibernators usually have metabolic rate drops that slow down the animal’s heart rate, decrease their respiration, and body temperature thereby reducing energy consumption.
Rabbit adaptations in winter
Instead of bunnies hibernating, they have evolved to cope with the cold weather through various mechanisms. For instance, rabbits are able to regulate their body temperature and they also grow a dense fur coat that traps warm air close to their bodies, hence acting as an insulation. If you’re keen enough, you’ll notice that rabbits tend to be fluffier in their winter fur. Additionally, a bunny’s high metabolic rate also helps them generate body heat that keeps them warm in chilly weather. Rabbits can tolerate temperatures between 40 to 32°F.
• Less activity level
Although bunnies don’t hibernate, as mentioned earlier, their activity level tends to lessen during winter. In addition, they tend to stay close to their burrows or secure sheltered areas. This behavioral change essentially allows them to conserve energy considering that they move around only when necessary.
• Change in diet
In case you’re wondering how rabbits feed during the winter period if they forage lesser than the norm. Well, for starters, during winter, they are less selective when it comes to their diet. This is simply due to the fact that fresh vegetation is scarce considering that it’s usually covered by snow. As a result, a bunny’s diet in the wild consists mainly of twigs, backs, and woody plants, which are usually the only option available. Rabbits can’t afford to be picky eaters since this dietary shift not only provides them with the essential nutrients they need but also helps trim down their continuously growing teeth.
• Increased burrowing and social behavior
In winter, bunnies will double down on burrowing tunnels to serve as shelter not only from the cold but also predators. The tunnels they dig are warrens, essentially providing them with insulation from the cold. Besides rabbits digging warrens, they’re usually more tolerant of communal living arrangements and less territorial. In other words, they stay close to each other, as a result sharing body heat which keeps them warmer.
Although rabbits don’t hibernate, their adaptation strategies in winter help to keep them warm. From their dense coat, high metabolic rate, high metabolic rate, reduced activity level as well as communal burrow behavior, they essentially get through winter.