Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

August 6, 2010

Peter Cottontail and John Deere

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 10:48 am

The rabbits of the world need to be alert and quick if they don’t want to be dead and still. It is their way to be perpetually frightened of everything because virtually everything is bent on killing or maiming them. When rabbits sit around campfires, they probably tell tales of killer shadows and fatal noises alongside stories about actual flesh and blood or steel and rubber predators.  Given this basic truth, you can understand why I am baffled by the behavior of one of my yard bunnies.

Since early summer, a cottontail rabbit has been hanging around my front door. There’s some good clover and green munchies in that location but not much in the way of cover because it is mown lawn. On top of that, the place is located only a few feet from the door itself. According to the laws of nature, this bunny should be bolting as if his tail were on fire whenever we open the door.  Instead, it chooses to remain in place and allows you to approach to within a few paces before showing any notice at all. Though his eyes are upon you the whole time, he will continue to eat right up until touching distance is reached. Then, only then, will he scuttle away to the shelter of some low hanging spruce branches. It neither bolts nor flees, it just hops.

Perhaps it is infected with some bunnyitis disorder or just “simple in the head,” you might say, but by all other accounts it looks and acts normal. I don’t buy into the St Francis effect either. Some might say that it recognizes my lack of hostility and therefore can be at ease in my presence. My breath doesn’t smell of hasenpfeffer and my whiskers don’t stick straight out from my face so there is no need for alarm. Nonsense – every other bunny on earth runs from me as if I were a screaming locomotive belching steam.   Even the backyard rabbit does that, but he’s got another oddity which I will get to in a moment.

In the absence of any explanation, I was left with a calm lagomorph that sat well for observation and portrait-taking. So, I observed and took a lot of pictures. I even shot a short video sequence of the creature through the door glass.  The video basically shows a rabbit eating, so I won’t inflict it on you,  but does reveal a few essentials of bunny biology. The still pictures say it all (see here, here, and here as well). First of all, you can see the three essential senses – anti predator senses – at work. The eyes bulge from the head and allow for a near 360 degree view (low in depth perception but good for detecting movement). The nose is constantly aquiver to pick up stray scents and the ears are always aswivel .

Cottontail rabbit ears are not as large as some rabbit species, but they are very large by any mammal standard. They are employed independently to scan the sonic environment and are often directed backwards.  You can understand why wild bunnies are so hard to approach – normally.

I was hoping to witness another phase of basic bunny reality as I logged observation time with my un-normal front yard friend, but was disappointed in this regard. Rabbits eat their own droppings in order to fully digest their cellulose content. A photo sequence of a rabbit eating crap right from its own the candy dispenser would have been special, but alas they probably perform this duty in private. This is not something you want to share with the world.

Now, in regards to the backyard rabbit I have a simple story to tell. Some animal had been digging a den in the shed where I keep my John Deere mower. Whatever it was, it was throwing dirt up onto the mower deck and making a mess. In an attempt to find out what it was, I set up my trail cam. Imagine my surprise when I caught the image of a cottontail rabbit sneaking about the shed in the pre-dawn darkness (see below & here). This unlikely place was where the backyard bunny was hanging out. Come to think of it, this would be a great place to eat one’s own poop in secret!

So, I have a slow rabbit in the front yard and a shed rabbit in the backyard. I wonder what kind of cottontail resides in my side yards. Stay tuned.

1 Comment »

  1. Great story!

    Comment by fern — August 11, 2010 @ 4:31 pm

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