The Relationship Between Rabbits and Fleas
The weather sure has been behaving strangely this year. Depending on the part of the United States you call home, you may have been seen some unseasonably warm weather. Winter and the cold it normally brings with it has seemed to be elusive. People in New York have been shown on television news walking around in shorts and t-shirts when they would normally be bundled up with scarves and gloves. Even beaches have been seeing many visitors all thanks to a winter that has been put on hold.
From a recreational standpoint, this continued mild weather can be quite nice. If you enjoy outdoor sports that are normally limited by snow and ice, you've been granted a reprieve that has allowed you continued enjoyment. Many people see all sorts of positives associated with this, but just because you don't have to shovel your walkways and driveway does not mean a lack of cold weather is a good thing.
As rabbit hunters and therefore consumers of rabbit, we need the cold to set in. It is sort of like pressing reset button on nature. You see, rabbits are affected by parasites such as fleas and ticks. These nasty pests are a problem when the weather stays warm. It is actually because of parasites like these that many people hold off on rabbit hunting until the mercury plummets well into the freezing range and stays there a few days. While this is an excellent idea, the weather has been reluctant to perform this feat in much of the country, which means that parasites and pests are able to live on.
Photo: Nature Science Resource
The last time we had a winter such as this, I remember being thrilled by the extended warmth. That was until my rabbit dogs kept coming up with fleas and ticks well beyond what was considered flea and tick season. This meant taking continued precautions against these bloodsuckers not only then, but quite literally throughout the following year until winter got on the ball and delivered some hard freezes once again. It was a real problem that required serious work to conquer. Having missed out on the cold that causes those pests to die off meant having increased numbers going into the next year, making infestations more likely. Remembering this has a way of making one wish for Mother Nature to get it in gear and bring the cold upon us no matter how much we may enjoy being warm.
Although you may have a seemingly flawless flea and tick control program to keep your rabbit dogs happy and healthy, you must remember that rabbits are a source of fleas. Dogs can therefore pick up fleas and ticks while in the woods in rabbit proximity, bringing them home to your clean kennels. Also, since fleas and ticks affect rabbits, you have to be careful what you do with their bodies after a kill. Parasites will hang out on a body as long as it is warm, but once it cools they will hastily depart. Because of this, you always want to keep your rabbits outside until their bodies cool and pests have plenty of time to vacate. If you bring rabbits inside the house too soon or transport them in the cab of your truck, infestation becomes possible. Although the cab of your truck will get cold and it is less likely an infestation can truly take hold, the interior of your home is often kept nice and toasty, making it a prime environment for fleas to set up camp and increase in numbers.
Once fleas make their way into your home, they waste no time making carpets, furniture, and dog bedding their own. Soon you will notice dogs itching continuously and will probably be doing so yourself since both are equally appetizing to a flea. After such a problem starts, it will become both labor intensive and pricey to remedy, so take the time and precautions necessary to keep pests away. This means waiting for rabbits harvested to cool before entering the home as well as waiting to hunt until after a hard freeze occurs. You may miss out on some time you'd like to be hunting, but in the end you'll be glad to have waited as you avoid persistent problems with pests/parasites.
How is the weather where you live? Have you even seen a pest-killing hard freeze yet? Let us know in the comments.