Rabbits: how to control numbers

How to control rabbits on your property or business using traps, snares and other methods.

Applies to England

You must control rabbits on your land in England (excluding the City of London and Isles of Scilly). If this is not possible you must stop them causing damage to adjoining crops by putting up rabbit proof fencing. You can be prosecuted if you do not take action to control rabbits on your land.

You can control rabbits using:

  • traps and snares
  • gas
  • fencing
  • ferreting
  • shooting

Catch rabbits with traps and snares

It is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to a rabbit caught in a trap or snare.

You can use cage traps, drop box traps or spring traps. You must:

  • only use free-running snares in good working condition which relax when the animal is captured
  • check traps and snares once a day
  • kill humanely any rabbits you catch
  • release all other animals unharmed – except grey squirrels and mink, which you must kill humanely
  • only use approved spring traps

You must not use:

  • snares where rabbits would be exposed to severe weather
  • snares or traps if weather conditions are likely to stop you from inspecting them once a day
  • snares near a fox earth, a badger sett or where badgers are present
  • self-locking snares
  • snares that could allow rabbits to become fully or partially suspended, entangled, drowned or strangled

Control rabbits with gas

You should use someone trained in the use of gassing products. Read the Health and Safety Executive information sheet gassing of rabbits and vertebrate pests.

Exclude rabbits with fencing

There are 3 types of fencing:

  • electric netting
  • electric strained wire (similar to the kind used to manage cattle and sheep)
  • permanent wire-mesh netting

Fencing restrictions

On scheduled monuments, you need agreement from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to put up fencing.

You should not put up fencing on archaeological sites.

Some wildlife habitats and species depend on rabbit grazing, so you should consider wildlife interests when deciding where to put up rabbit fencing.

You should install badger gates if the fence crosses any badger runs.

Use ferrets to control rabbits

You can send ferrets into the burrow system. The ferrets drive rabbits into nets, which are placed over the burrow entrances or to waiting guns that shoot them as they bolt from tunnel entrances.

Shoot rabbits

If you are the occupier of land you can shoot rabbits on your land during the day.

You can authorise in writing one other person to shoot rabbits on your land. That person must be either:

  • part of your household
  • one of your staff
  • employed to specifically control the rabbits

You can apply to Natural England for authority to shoot rabbits if the owner of the shooting rights for your land does not agree to either:

  • destroy the rabbits themselves
  • allow you to use more shooters

Wildlife licensing

Natural England
Horizon House
Deanery Road


Telephone 020 8026 1089

You can shoot rabbits at night only if you are:

  • an owner or occupier with shooting rights
  • a landlord or landlady who has reserved their shooting rights
  • a shooting tenant who is not an occupier but who has derived the shooting rights from the owner
  • an occupier, or one other person authorised by the occupier in writing, where the occupier has written authority from someone with the shooting rights

Read Hunting and shooting wildlife for more information.

Make a complaint about rabbit damage

If rabbits from neighbouring land are damaging your land, you should contact the landowner first to try to resolve the issue.

If your neighbour fails to control the rabbits, you can make a complaint to Natural England using form A02.

If rabbits live on land owned by Network Rail, you should telephone the Network Rail national helpline 03457 11 41 41.

Read Pest control on your property for general advice about controlling pests.

Published 27 March 2015
Last updated 6 April 2023 + show all updates
  1. Updated guidance for catching rabbits with traps and snares.

  2. First published.