Bunny Boom in Arlington

by ARLnow.com July 20, 2011 at 3:01 pm 11,064 94 Comments

The rabbit population is on the rise in Arlington.

A resident of the High View Park neighborhood, just north of Virginia Hospital Center, tells us that neighbors have been buzzing with talk of a bunny boom.

“I’ve noticed something odd in Arlington this summer and the more I talk to other residents the more aware I become that this is happening all over the county (at least north Arlington, anyway). Namely, there has been an explosion in the rabbit population this year,” he writes. “I’m used to bunny sightings being a very rare thing, but this year I keep seeing them on a regular basis. I’m spotting rabbits more frequently than I have spotted squirrels.”

Those observations are backed up by Arlington County Parks spokesman Nathan Spillman, who confirms that naturalists have observed a rapidly increasing rabbit population.

“It is indeed a boom year for rabbits in the county,” Spillman said, “Rabbit populations here are cyclical and about every seven or eight years you see a large spike in the population followed by a relatively steep (and quick) decrease as the boom attracts predators like foxes and hawks which bring the population down… It’s likely the decline will start to become noticeable as early as this November,”

According to a just-released inventory of wildlife in Arlington, the rabbit population in Arlington (made up mostly of Eastern Cottontails, pictured) typically moves in cycles with the population of its primary predator, the fox. That’s consistent with anecdotal evidence cited by Sean, our tipstser.

“[A relative] who lives near Marymount University mentioned that she has seen dead foxes on the road numerous times and speculated that the loss of these predators might have resulted in the rabbit increase,” Sean wrote. “That seems to tie in with this article about the loss of predators in general.”

The population boom may not be limited to Arlington. Earlier this month, a Washington City Paper article declared that “bunnies are everywhere” in parts of Montgomery County and Northwest D.C.

“The manicured lawns of Chevy Chase are covered with rabbit families munching away on annuals and woody plants in the early morning,” a member of a neighborhood listserv is quoted as writing. “Early runs in various neighborhoods sometime remind me of Watership Down or the ‘tribbles’ in one of those Star Trek episodes.”

Photo via Wikipedia

  • Theakston

    Aww Bunnies!

  • JamesE

    Lyon Hall should have add some to the menu (or do they already serve rabbit?)

    • CW

      Ok dude, this is not even funny. Rabbit rillettes is on their charcuterie menu and I specifically came onto this article’s comments to make that specific post…and you beat me to it.

      Were we separated at birth or something?


      • JamesE

        brothers from another mother.

  • PhilL

    This is clearly a failure of Arlington’s health care system for not providing these rabbits with free contraception.

    • doodly

      Okay, not bad.

  • JimPB

    Here in North Arlington on the line with Fairfax County, we see adult and baby deer, squirrels (usually adult looking) and many rabbits, adults and babies. The adult foxes who had a home in the wild growth behind us, and raised little foxes there, have disappeared, which is puzzling given the abundance of choice fresh meat that is at hand. That leaves human hunters. The catch is readily at hand. As we know from the plants and nuts that have been eaten in the backyard, the free ranging game has eaten well. Why shouldn’t we complete the cycle with a fresh piece of game on the plate?

    • Tom Lang

      Jim, where you live, you could probably hunt ’em with a pellet gun. Get a good scoped German rifle and Git ’em Elmer….

    • Clarendude

      Someone told me a bout of mange swept through the fox population this year.

  • Skeptical

    The rabbit’s eyes grow dreamier and dreamier
    As he quietly gives you tularemia.

    –Ogden Nash

    That said, I think they’re cute too. I’d look the other way if someone who really knew what they were doing made rabbit stew, but hunting and dressing rabbit is exactly how you do get tularemia (if the rabbit has it), verb. sap.

  • Tom Lang

    Rabbits have been here at N. Harrison St. near the Safeway for 3 years now. Last year we had to fence the vegggies in as they would feed on the young shoots. This year I’ve seen one in the back yard eating clover, but no damage done to the garden out front. Three predators keep them in check cars, cats and foxes.

    • PikerShorts

      Cats are an extremely destructive threat to song birds and native fauna.

      I love my (indoor) cats but would not mind a feral cat roundup with the fanfare and pageantry of Whacking Day.

      Keep ur kittehs in de howze

      • Marc


      • FUNdamental

        There are no laws in Arlington County about cats being outdoors. Stop insinuating having an outdoor/indoor cat is a bad thing.

        • Outdoor cat = dog food

          One stupid neighbor on my street has a cat she always lets out to roam the ‘hood. A while back, another neighbor had some contractors working on his house. One of them didn’t shut his door all the way. This woman’s roaming cat got into his house and attacked his two (healthy, btw) house cats. They needed surgery.

          Now every time I see that damn cat in our yard, I let the dog out. He’s come very close to eating that f—r.

          • Finally we know who let the dogs out

          • Tabby

            Having dogs off leash is illegal in Arlington County and owners are liable if they hurt someone.

            That tale about the cat coming in and attacking two housecats sounds rather contrived.

          • Actually

            Not in your own backyard, it’s not illegal. Surely you aren’t under the impression that dogs are to be on leashes in their own yards.

            The “tale” may sound fantastic, but it happened. Pretty bold cat. If a dog doesn’t get it, a car will eventually.

        • PikerShorts

          1. Outdoor cats don’t live as long as indoor cats
          2. Outdoor cats kill native species by the millions
          3. Your outdoor cat could get run over by a car or eaten by a Hyena

        • doodly

          Having an outdoor cat without a bell on it is a bad thing, regardless of the law.

        • Paula

          A cat owner can be cited for trespassing if their cat is caught on another’s property. I hope that the rise in rabbits is due to an increase in foxes and coyotes picking off free-roaming cats. I read on the Clarendon blog that a Black cat on Franklin St. killed a federally protected hawk last year. That cat deserves to die and it’s owner deserves to be prosecuted (it still roams free here on 16th St. most days and nights).

      • Bunny

        Outdoor cats are a nuisance. I’ve found numerous bird carcasses in my yard. I also hear cats fighting outside my window late at night while trying to sleep.

        What’s the point in having an outdoor cat in a place like Arlington anyway? They serve no purpose except to annoy the neighbors and terrorize the neighborhood bird population.

        • Sanchez

          Mine is partial to rodents and has eliminated any rodent problems that used to plague (word choice not accidental) my neighborhood.

          Responsible cat owners keep cats in at dawn and dusk(and overnight), and as much as possible during early spring when fledglings are about.

          Sorry to say it’s not possible to keep a lot of cats inside–they want to climb trees, breathe the air. And will drive their owners nuts if they’re not allowed. Unlike their housebound, unhealthy, obese, and miserable counterparts, they get to enjoy life. Would you like to be imprisoned?

          • PikerShorts

            How is a cat “imprisoned”? A cat is a pet and its life is dictated by its owner. Many dogs would love to run around off of the leash. Does that mean you don’t use a leash?

            If the Leashers get wind of this turn in the thread it just may break 1,000

          • ZoningVictim

            Like this…

          • doodly

            Would you like to be eaten by a cat?

            Funny how you have sympathy for the poor cat but not the animals it eats. And many eat birds, not rodents.

          • Marlin Perkins

            Domesticated cats don’t eat what they kill.

          • Maeve

            I was aware of a bunny nest in my yard until the local outside cat found it a few weeks ago. Sadly, it killed all the baby bunnies, throwing them around and biting/shaking them to death, and left little carcasses everywhere. Same cat has killed numerous songbirds in my yard, again leaving bodies strewn about (this fat cat is clearly hunting for fun, not food). I think cats should definitely be kept indoors.

            I have a cat of my own and he lives indoors. Cats live well indoors, thank you, and are healthier and better attuned to their owners. Anyone who thinks that indoor cats are necessarily fat or miserable is badly misinformed and has no idea how to properly care for an indoor pet cat.

          • True dat.

            I have seen a cat basically torture a pigeon it had caught. You can’t blame animals for hunting other animals to eat–but this was just sadistic. (I rescued the pigeon and tried to put it out of reach of the cat.)

        • ZoningVictim

          What good is having any animals around an urban location? Birds just make all kinds of noise and [email protected] on our cars and heads. Raccons get in the trash Dogs bark and are annoying. Squirrles try to wreck us by running out in front of our cars to see if we flinch. Woodchucks chuck our wood. Somebody call the exterminator.

          • what the..

            this is not your earth. the planet is not about YOU. an urban area…really? if you slow down the panicked squirrel , who is only desperately searching for food will calmly cross the road.,

          • Chris

            Written with all the lucidity of a classic Grandpa Simpson rant. You sir have made my morning brighter. Unlike some, I got the joke. Very funny stuff.

          • ZoningVictim

            Grandpa Simpson, too funny. I can’t believe someone thought I was seriously upset about a woodchuck chucking wood, haha.

          • ZoningVictim

            It was a joke designed to point out the sillyness of Bunny’s complaints about outdoor cats you clowns; doesn’t anyone have a sense of humor anymore? I can see if you only read the first sentence, but you took a post where someone complained about a woodchuck chucking wood seriously; seriously?

        • Josh S

          I don’t know, when I’ve had outdoor cats I let them out because I figured they WANTED to go outside. Seems like a good enough reason to me.

          That and they crap outside, cutting down on any unwanted smells inside.

          • Gardener

            Yep, gardeners love people who let their cats out to crap and spray in our gardens and kill all the songbirds. I’ve had neighbors like you and am glad they moved!

  • Chris

    Perhaps the oddest quote from the article:

    “[A relative] who lives near Marymount University mentioned that she has seen dead foxes on the road numerous times.”

    Really? I don’t keep a roadkill inventory, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen fox roadkill, let alone seen such carcases “numerous times.” Are you sure your tipster’s relative isn’t out huntin’ fox with her Michelin?

    • PhilL

      There’s been a den (or several) of foxes living at the country club for years. I would expect to see them around there as opposed to Clarendon for example.

    • Sean Stidman

      @Chris: My sister-in-law has no reason to lie about such a thing. I think she just finds the dead carcasses to be gross so she can’t simply ignore them.

  • lentigogirl

    Our overabundance of bunnies on Lincoln Street in Ashton Heights has given way to an overabundance of foxes.

  • Take it down a notch

    I’ve noticed this too. During the past few years I would see plenty of bunnies along the WOD trail during evening bike rides, but I noticed they always stayed on the grass, unlike those moronic squirrels that run across the trail, then reverse course and stop right in front of you. But this summer I’m seeing the bunnies in residential neighborhoods in north Arlington and McLean, and they’re not staying on the grass. Fortunately, they don’t pull that stupid squirrel behavior, they just cross the road once and move on.

    • Rocky

      Watch it, buster

  • Theakston

    It seems they are moving more into the neighborhoods where the foxes are less likely to follow due to the cars. I see much fewer bunnies on my morning runs in Bluemont / WOD / Four mile run than I used to a couple of years ago. Probably due to an increase in foxes.

  • KalashniKEV

    I want more foxes. Can we bus them in from Fairfax?

    Where’s the diversity???

    • Wild guy

      and chicks!

    • Fairfax resident

      You can have our foxes!! They are crazy in our neighborhood! Too many of them! But they are very cute.

      • KalashniKEV

        I’ll take all of them!!!!

  • Tre

    I went for a walk in Lyon Village recently and saw at least 9…. unless the same one kept on following us. I’d much prefer rabbits to squirrels… as they don’t randomly chew holes in your home and try to live in your attic.

    • Tabby

      Chipmunks are so cute. More of them I say.

  • CrystalMikey

    Look Doc, I’m multiplying!

  • Westover
  • Westover

    BB gun rabbit hunting season!

  • Chris M.

    This has sure made my dog walks more fun in Barcroft. If it weren’t for the leash laws, I could go on neighborhood hunting expeditions.

  • SomeGuy

    Anyone know the the county laws regarding killing of small game (squirrels, rabbits, etc) with BB/pellet guns?

    That’s a serious question. I just assume there’s a law governing discharge of such a non-firearm and/or hunting small game, but maybe there’s not. Anyone?

    • Westover

      Pretty sure the Commonwealth just made it legal anywhere to do such a thing, as long as it is legal game. No shooting the Bald Eagles please.

    • ArlingtonNative

      Official Regs for Arlington County …
      ~ It shall be unlawful for any person to
      discharge or shoot off a firearm in the
      county. It shall be unlawful for any
      person to discharge or shoot or throw
      any dangerous missiles by mechanical,
      explosive, air-or gas-propelled
      means, or similar method or device
      onto or across any public sidewalk,
      path, or roadway, at any public structure
      or building, or at or onto the
      property of another. It is unlawful for
      any person to shoot a compound bow,
      crossbow, longbow, or recurve bow at
      or upon the property of another without
      permission. It shall be unlawful to
      discharge a projectile from any of the
      aforementioned bows within 100
      yards of any public road, public building
      or structure, private residence or
      structure, or property of another.
      Nothing in this ordinance shall be construed
      to prohibit the use of firearms
      or other instruments or missiles or
      compound bows, crossbows, longbows,
      or recurve bows in lawful self
      defense or in the lawful defense of
      property, or to prohibit the use of
      firearms or other missiles or compound
      bows, crossbows, longbows, or
      recurve bows in supervised sport,
      recreation, or training conducted on
      safety-inspected and approved ranges
      and courses, provided the same is not
      contrary to existing law.

      • Westover

        Pretty sure the legislature just overturned the part about “It shall be unlawful to
        discharge a projectile from any of the aforementioned bows within 100 yards of any public road, public building or structure, private residence or structure, or property of another.” in the last session. Otherwise 100 yards would eliminate all but a dozen or so homes in the county from having a bb gun discharge.

  • sonia

    Any correlation with increase in veggie gardens?

  • Jezebel

    Gotta represent and let you know South Arlington is enjoying a bunny boom, too. Been living here 20 years and never seen so much cuteness on my lawn.

  • It is true! I see them every morning (round 5:30) when I walk in my North Arlington neighborhood. In past years, a bunny was a rare sight. This year, I’ve seen as many as three in a single mornings’ walk. We love ’em — except when they steal our tomatoes!

  • NoVapologist

    We have foxes galore off of Lorcom. Not surprisingly, I never see rabbits in our neighborhood although I do see them elsewhere in North Arlington.

  • othersideoftheriver

    In any event, you wouldn’t want to eat them over the summer.


  • BlueSkies

    When it was snowy out, some folks on Arlnow couldn’t identify rabbit tracks. Maybe the rabbits are having an awareness campaign.

  • NoVapologist

    You know what would be awesome?

    A Playboy bunny boom in Arlington.

    • Westover


  • steve85

    Who the hell eats rabbit. Where r u guys from.

    • othersideoftheriver


    • jan


      • steve85

        im sorry i didnt know that humans eat rabbits. this is new for me and im from here.

        • JamesE

          are you being serious? this is the internet so I cannot tell.

          • steve85

            yes i serous. None of my family or people that I associate with has every said anything about wanting to eat rabbit.

          • Chris

            If it currently lives, once lived or might have something living in it, people somehwere are eating it.

        • Thomas Carlyle

          Jaleo’s annual paella festival just kicked off. The Valenciana, the mother of all paellas, is delicious, made with chicken and rabbit.

        • ZoningVictim

          Haha, pretty funny. They also eat squirrels, racoons, opossums, crows, snails; you name it and I’ll bet someone eats it somewhere.

        • eastpike

          Rabbit is delicious! If youv’e ever eaten at a Belgian or French restaurant, you’ve surely seen it on the menu.

    • LVGuy

      It sounds a little Frenchy to me.

  • kc

    Used to see rabbits in the woods at Iwo Jima park but haven’t seen any this year. They’re migrating west.

  • Westover
  • Near EFC metro

    Rabbits, rabbits, everywhere!

  • Vinh An Nguyen

    In my North Arlington ‘hood, many less rabbits this year than in the last two. Not sure on why there are fewer this go round.

  • lots of rabbits in my S Arlington home. Last year we had triplets- adorable bunnies chasing each other around my grow boxes.

    Found bunny poop in my yard throughout the winter. This spring and summer I’ve seen at least 2 in the yard. They Iove the volunteer clover and other greens growing instead of grass 🙂

    I put out some water bowls at ground level to be sure they have water in this heat.

    We have a veggie garden but they seem to like the clover more than anything else.

  • Mosprott

    We’ve had about double the norm in CoFo (in SoAr) – from 2 to 4!!

  • JS88

    Yup, I too live in the ghetto of North Arlington (Halls Hill) and frequently come home to find bunnies in our front yard! Love having them, more so than pesky squirrels!

  • Flipper

    We have seen more rabbits this year but what we’ve been overrun with is chipmunks. Chipmunks are quite destructive if found living near foundations. I’d prefer to have the yipping foxes back to rid the problem of the chipmunks. I will say though that the outdoor and feral cats do kill the chipmunks, rats, and mice which are unwelcome.

    • Loocy

      I’ve noticed a lot of chipmunks too, as well as bunnies. Why do you say that they are bad near foundations? Mine seem to be nesting around my back porch, near the foundation. What should I be worried about?

  • Harvey

    Thanks ARLNow. I had been wondering about all the rabbits. We have them in Ballston just one block from Fairfax Drive.

  • PhilT

    I saw no less than 6 dead foxes between EFC and Rosslyn on I-66 last year. Have seen far fewer this year, alive or dead. Would not be surprised if the coyotes aren’t closing in…

    Noticable bunny uptick, but seeing more chipmonks than ever as well.

    The hawks won’t be back until the fall, and then things will settle down.

  • Sean Stidman

    Wow….thanks ARLNow for following up on this story for me!! It’s amazing how quickly you solved the mystery. It had never occurred to me that it might simply be a cyclic thing, but so many things in nature operate on a cycle that it’s really should not have been a surprise.

    But I’m a bit disturbed by the fact that this rabbit boom will likely be followed by a predator boom. I’m not looking forward to that.

  • what the..

    i see numerous ignorant posts. wanting to the rabbits, moronic squirrels, rats with wings pidgeons, Raccons get in the trash Dogs bark, foxes, birds, deer, chipmunks get the exterminator.

    Are you all crazy? these animals belong here. they can’t help if if we build roads through what was once forest. build house after house and cover 3/4 of the property with concrete.

    They have a RIGHT to live and they should be respected as LIFE not run over and left to die in the road while you don’t even glance back or give their LIFE a second thought.

    Foxes ARE run over all the time. When you run over an animal you are ALSO condemning their young to death as they need their parents to survive…sound familiar.

  • Steve

    It’s not just Arlington seeing a bunny boom, I was out in Texas last spring while storm chasing and the jack rabbits out there were so numerous, it looked like a scene from some crappy science fiction movie. There were millions of them. I imagine this years drought out there cut that number down some.

  • Chris Scheer

    The bunnies are nothing compared to the marked increase in chipmunks in Arlington Forest and Lubber Run Park… they’re everywhere!

  • Pat

    I like rabbits. What do I need in my yard to attract them?

  • eastpike

    There are tons of rabbits near columbia pike. I was just telling someone the other day that I was surprised at how many I saw running around the park.


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