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Do Coyotes Eat Rabbits? Explore Their Predatory Habits

Coyotes, a species of canid native to North America, have long been recognized as opportunistic predators. They play a vital role in maintaining ecological balance by controlling populations of small mammals, including rabbits. 

In recent years, as the coyote population has adapted to urban environments, there has been a growing interest in their dietary habits, particularly in areas like Los Angeles and Southern California, where interactions with humans are common. In this article, we will delve into the question: Do coyotes eat rabbits?

A Closer Look at Coyote Diet

Coyotes, the clever and adaptable canids native to North America, have long been the subject of fascination and concern for humans. One common question that often arises is, “Do coyotes eat rabbits?”.

The short answer is, yes. Coyotes eat rabbits when presented with the opportunity. That’s because coyotes are opportunistic predators. Their diet varies depending on the availability of prey in their habitat. 

The coyote (Canis latrans) is a highly adaptable animal. While the western coyote is well-known, the eastern counterparts, known as eastern coyotes, have established a strong presence in the northeastern United States. In urban areas like Los Angeles and Southern California, urban coyotes are a common sight.

Both the western and eastern coyote are known to eat a wide range of animals, including small mammals, birds, and even deer. But, it’s good to note that rabbits are a frequent choice for several reasons.


Wild rabbits, particularly Eastern Cottontails and Desert Cottontails, are incredibly prolific throughout North America. These species are well-adapted to various habitats, including grasslands, woodlands, and even urban areas. 

Their population numbers are consistently high, providing a reliable and easily accessible food source for coyotes. The abundance of rabbits ensures that coyotes can often find a meal without expending excessive effort in hunting.


Rabbits are relatively small prey animals compared to many other potential prey species available to coyotes. Their smaller size makes them manageable for rabbit predators like coyotes to pursue, catch, and consume. This is advantageous for coyotes as it allows them to conserve energy during the hunting process. 

Chasing and capturing larger prey such as deer can be physically demanding and may not always guarantee a successful meal.

In contrast, rabbits provide a more efficient option for meeting their dietary needs.


Rabbits offer an excellent source of essential nutrients, with protein being a key component of their diet. Coyotes, like many other predators, make dietary choices based on the nutritional value of their prey. 

Rabbits are not only a good source of protein but also provide other important nutrients like vitamins and minerals. This nutritional richness makes rabbits a desirable prey choice for coyotes, as it helps them maintain their health and energy levels.

Energy Efficiency

Coyotes are opportunistic predators that prioritize energy efficiency in their hunting strategies. Rabbits, being small and readily available, allow coyotes to obtain a substantial meal with minimal energy expenditure. This efficiency is crucial for their survival, especially during times when other prey may be scarce.

Rabbits as Prey

Wild rabbits, such as the Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) and Desert Cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii), are frequent targets for coyote predation. These small herbivores are abundant in many parts of North America, making them an easily accessible food source for coyotes.

In urban areas like Los Angeles and Southern California, the presence of coyotes has raised concerns about their interactions with small domestic animal pets, such as small dog pets and or cats. However, wild rabbits are also part of their diet in these settings.

Urban coyotes often rely on a combination of natural resources and human-provided food. They scavenge for prey like rabbits in parks, golf courses, and even residential neighborhoods.

When Do Coyotes Eat Rabbits?

The coyote is an animal known to eat rabbits throughout the year, but their dietary preferences can be influenced by various factors. This includes the season of the year and the availability of prey in their area:

Seasonal Variations

Coyotes adjust their diet based on what is readily available. Seasonal changes have a significant impact on the availability of prey. In winter months, when other food sources like fruits and vegetation become scarce or less accessible, rabbits become more prominent in the coyote diet. 

The scarcity of alternative food sources during winter makes rabbits an essential and reliable source of sustenance for coyotes. During this time, coyotes may actively seek out rabbits to meet their nutritional needs and energy requirements.

Reproductive Seasons

Another key factor influencing when coyotes eat rabbits is the reproductive seasons of both coyotes and rabbits. During the breeding seasons of these species, there is an increased likelihood of coyotes hunting rabbits. 

This is because young rabbits, often referred to as kits or leverets, are born during specific times of the year and become more numerous during these periods. The abundance of young rabbits provides a valuable and relatively easy-to-catch food source for coyotes.

During the reproductive seasons, coyotes are not only responsible for feeding themselves but also for providing sustenance to their growing families. 

Young, inexperienced rabbits are vulnerable to predation. Coyotes take advantage of this abundance to nourish their pups, ensuring their survival and growth.

How Coyotes Hunt Rabbits

Coyotes are skilled and adaptable hunters, and they employ various techniques when hunting rabbits:

  • Stalking: Coyotes are patient stalkers. They often locate rabbits by scent or sound and then quietly approach their prey, using covers like tall grass or terrain contours to remain hidden. They maintain a low profile, moving slowly and stealthily to minimize detection.
  • Pouncing: When the distance between the coyote and the rabbit becomes favorable, the coyote makes a sudden and swift pounce. This burst of speed is typically used to close the final gap between predator and prey, allowing the coyote to get within striking distance.
  • Chasing: In some cases, coyotes may chase rabbits for short distances. While coyotes are not known for their long-distance running abilities, they can achieve bursts of speed over shorter distances. This chase may occur if a rabbit attempts to escape after the initial pounce.
  • Ambush: In addition to stalking and pouncing, coyotes may sometimes use an ambush tactic. They lie in wait, concealed in vegetation or near a rabbit burrow entrance, and strike when a rabbit comes into their proximity.
  • Digging: Coyotes are known to dig into rabbit burrows to access prey, especially if the rabbit seeks refuge underground. This requires some effort, and coyotes will use their strong front claws to excavate the burrow entrance.

Coyote Contribution to Ecological Balance

Coyotes play a significant role in maintaining ecological balance through their predation on rabbits and other prey species. These keystone predators help regulate prey populations, preventing overgrazing and maintaining plant biodiversity. 

By controlling the numbers of herbivores like rabbits, coyotes indirectly support healthier habitats and prevent disease outbreaks within prey populations. Their presence influences the behavior of prey species. This impacts vegetation and benefits a wide array of wildlife such as the deer population. 

Additionally, the effects of coyote predation ripple through the food web, benefiting secondary predators like birds of prey. Coyotes also reduce competition among smaller carnivores for limited resources. 

Are Pet Rabbits in Danger of Being Eaten by Coyotes?

Pet rabbit owners often wonder if their beloved pets are at risk of becoming prey for coyotes. While it is not common for coyotes to target domesticated rabbits, there are precautions pet owners should take to ensure their pets’ safety:

 Secure Housing: Pet rabbits should be housed in secure enclosures or hutches that are not easily accessible to coyotes. Ensure that the enclosure has a sturdy bottom and a secure lid to prevent any potential threats.

  • Supervision: When allowing pet rabbits to roam outdoors, always supervise them, especially during dawn and dusk when coyotes are most active. 
  • Secure Trash and Food: Coyotes may be attracted to pet food left outdoors. Keep pet food and trash cans securely closed to avoid drawing them into your vicinity.

Understanding that coyotes eat rabbits is essential for residents in areas where urban coyotes are prevalent.

While coyotes are generally not a direct threat to humans, pet owners should exercise caution by keeping small pets indoors or supervised when outside.


 In conclusion, coyotes do eat rabbits as part of their natural diet due to their abundance, size, and nutritional value. Coyotes may consume rabbits year-round, with some variations based on factors such as season and prey availability. 

While it is not common for pet rabbits to be targeted by coyotes, responsible pet ownership includes taking precautions to ensure their safety by providing secure housing and supervising outdoor activities. By understanding the dietary habits of coyotes and taking necessary measures, humans and their pets can coexist safely alongside these adaptable predators.


How do we know coyotes’ eat rabbits? 

One way researchers study the diets of urban coyotes is by analyzing their scat (feces). This provides clear evidence of their consumption of rabbits in urban environments.

Do coyotes have any specific hunting techniques for catching rabbits?

When hunting rabbits, they often rely on stealth and quick bursts of speed to close the distance before making a swift pounce to capture their prey.

Are pet rabbits at risk from coyotes?

Pet rabbits can be at risk if not adequately protected. It’s essential to secure pet rabbit enclosures and supervise outdoor activities to prevent coyote attacks.

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