By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
LONGPORT – After recent reports of two dogs getting seriously ill from what is believed to be poison put out for rabbits, Mayor Nicholas Russo reminded residents that using poison to control the out-of-control rabbit population can have a deadly effect beyond rabbits.
Over the weekend, Russo posted a letter on the borough’s website stating that two dogs were recently hospitalized after their owners belived they ingested poison put out for rabbits.
“A little over a year ago, the borough had a report of a dog dying and another becoming seriously ill from what is believed to be poison commonly used for rabbits,” Russo said in his letter asking residents to use less toxic rabbit deterents.
“Please do not use rabbit poison as it can have unintended lethal consequences for other animals such as dogs and cats, and can also be dangerous to children,” he said.
Last year, Russo took advice from his granddaughter to control the rabbits in his yard. She recommended using something that would deter rabbits naturally, such as with a product that replicates the smell of fox urine. Foxes, which are no longer present in great numbers on Absecon Island, are the rabbit’s natural predator.
“I am not endorsing any products, but I have personally used a product called Rabbit Scram that is a natural product that I believe replicates the smell of fox urine and this seems to work,” Russo said. “We understand that the rabbits are a nuisance. Although, poison is not the answer.”
Last year, a resident of Margate lost her dog to rabbit poisoning. The dog’s death was confirmed by the vet to have died from poison.
The Sustainable Longport green team, under the leadership of Chairman Tom Subranni, who has been an avid gardener for more than 40 years, conducted an educational program last July for residents about planting rabbit resistant plants.
Subranni said young rabbits have to learn what they can ingest and will often enjoy a buffet of tender plants put out by unsuspecting homeowners trying to beautify their homes. In winter, the rabbits will munch on practically anything, including the lower branches of evergreen trees.
Subranni said local gardeners can deal with the problem by outsmarting the rabbits and plant species that are rabbit resistant.
He said rabbits will not eat portulaca, which produces drought resistant multi-colored flowers, purple Russian sage and salvia, geraniums, gardenias, lavender, ground cover sedums, and vinca, which comes in many colors.
Some rabbit resistant landscape plants include certain “lime” variety hydrangeas and barberry, which has double the natural defenses – sharp thorns and barbarine toxin, although some barberry plants can be invasive. Edibles that are rabbit resistant include basil, chamomile, and nightshade plants, such as tomatoes and eggplant.
“Please consider contacting your local landscaper or nursery for rabbit resistant plants and other ideas that are safer for us all,” Russo said in the letter.
Click here for Subranni’s handout from the meeting.
Also, Prof. Richard Van Vranken of Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Atlantic County suggested residents review the Penn State Extension list of rabbit resistant garden and landscape plants.