One of the joys of living in the country is the opportunity to view wildlife right outside the house. One of the curses of living in the country is the opportunity to view wildlife right outside the house. The very same wildlife that brings so much joy by morning can destroy a garden or flowerbed later that same day or night.
Literature perpetuates the myth of the cute bunny in The Tales of Peter Cottontail and various other bunny stories that appear in childhood’s Little Golden Book series. When I was a child, Farmer McGregor mortified me. How could he want to shoot poor Peter Cottontail, that cute, nose-wriggling, little bunny? All Peter wanted was a bit of garden fresh lettuce. How could Farmer McGregor begrudge Peter a leaf of two of lettuce?
Lately, Farmer McGregor’s attitude toward hungry rabbits makes more and more sense to me. Actually, the change in my attitude toward rabbits began last summer, but grasshoppers diverted my attention from the furry denizens of garden and flowerbed. I should have stayed focused on the rabbit issue so I didn’t have so darn many cute critters hopping about the yard this spring.
I mentioned the joy of watching wildlife earlier in this article. One form of this joy begins in early spring when the rabbits start remembering their reason for being—procreation. As a prelude to the serious business of baby bunnies, much silly game playing, entertaining to humans who watch, goes on. The games include leap bunny (something akin to leap frog) and bunny tag for hours or days on end.
When I first noticed a couple of bunnies in the back yard leaping as high as they could straight up into the air, I thought they were being silly in the same manner our perpetually puppyish hunting dog acts on warm days. After a few days, the two bunnies got sillier and sillier until I realized that they had more on their minds than just a celebration of warm weather and longer days.
A couple of months later I went out to cleanup the yard. As I raked up a particularly large pile of old bark and leaves, six small figures darted out, dashing in six different directions. At first I thought I disturbed a packrat nest and did a fleet-footed dance appropriate for such a situation. After I calmed down, I realized I had discovered a nest of ready-to-wean bunnies, a probable result of all that leaping and playing two months earlier.
My first inclination was to think of their poor mother and what she would think when she returned to find her nest destroyed. My next thought recalled the destruction of the previous year’s garden and flowers and how the rabbits had literally eaten my plants to the nubbins, eating everything but the salvia.
Somehow, one bunny survived our dog as well as the neighborhood hawks, owls, and coyotes by hiding under our lawn mower. Eventually, to better protect himself, he discovered a secret passage into our screened in back porch.
As I rode my exercise bike one morning, I looked onto the porch only to lock surprised gazes with that little rabbit. Upon finding itself the focus of my attention, it promptly headed toward a microscopic crevice and squeezed through just as Peter Cottontail had eluded Farmer McGregor. I had wondered how it escaped our resident birds of prey. There was my answer. It hid on my back porch, probably right under my swing.
After spotting the survivor, I planted my garden and several flower beds. My husband took a nonchalant approach to “our” rabbits. His philosophy followed the lines of “If they don’t bother me, I won’t bother them.”
For a while it seemed his approach would work as we saw the rabbits nibbling only grass and weeds. They didn’t appear to notice my garden or flowerbeds, lush after so many spring showers.
That has since changed. The rabbits fired the opening salvo of this summer’s epic battle by eating my salvia blossoms as hors d’oeuvres before chomping on the snapdragons, dahlias, hollyhocks, and rose leaves. I suppose they picked their little rabbit teeth with the thorns from the rose bush.
Like Farmer McGregor I no longer have mercy in my heart for cute little bunnies. As far as I am concerned, their furry exteriors and cute bunny noses disguise cold-hearted thieves and garden murderers. Never again will I welcome these creatures into the yard with oohs and aahs, nor will I feel sad when nature takes its course and they become owl, hawk, or coyote food. Or at least very sad . . .