Mr. Cottontail. Photo by Nancy Jane Kern

DESPITE OUR RESTRICTED SUMMER our local cottontail rabbit population has thrived. By the varying sizes of offspring they have raised several batches of bunnies that are all over the yard and trails through the woods. Last week the cutest tiny little one raced off the driveway and dove into a hole under a flat slab of concrete left over from when the house foundation was poured over a dozen years ago. At least that wasted bit has been put to good use.

We have rabbit droppings everywhere and they are often sitting under cars parked in the drive. They are rodents with teeth that grow all their lives, so they constantly chew on things to wear them down and can be very destructive. Years ago, we noticed that a neighbor had flowerpots that seemed flung across the lawn. We stopped and asked what happened, and she said a rabbit kept gnawing on her patio door. She got so mad she picked up some empty flowerpots and started throwing them at it. She wasn’t sure if she hit it, but it hadn’t come back.

This technique or similar measures may be taken here because a rabbit is the prime suspect for gnawed garage door trim at about the height that a rabbit could reach. Chipmunks or mice had already made a hole in the corner of the rubber seal at the bottom of the overhead door and have been coming in. Our old cat caught most of the creatures in the garage. He would certainly have taken care of the rabbits too, but we did not let him outdoors because of the numerous cat predators in the area. Our current cat gets into things he shouldn’t so isn’t allowed to hunt the garage. If the rabbits eventually gnaw their way in that will be another story. Inside the garage may become his territory too.

With the fall start of rabbit hunting season hasenpfeffer, a good German rabbit stew, may be on the menu. Even if we don’t get them ourselves, there are plenty of animals hunting them. The phrase multiplying like rabbits is no joke, and they provide an important food source for our coyotes, foxes, bobcat, hawks and owls. One evening, just before dark, there was a big yellow cat with piercing yellow eyes crouched in the grass just off the back deck chewing on something (rabbit?). This cat was a real treat and a new yard animal, a beautiful bobcat. A long-ago 4-H project of raising domestic New Zealand White rabbits taught me that weasels loved rabbits too. The rabbits were in elevated hutches with heavy wire floors and we kept losing the young. They would be lying dead and bloodless on the wire and had bite marks. Eventually a weasel was spotted in a nearby stonewall and eliminated. There were no more dead rabbits.

Rabbits are fun to observe (if you don’t keep a vegetable garden) and their fluffy white, “cottony” tails make them easy to identify along with those huge ears. Aside from their destructive natures they are entertaining. A must read to learn about rabbits and other animals are the children’s (also fun for adults) books by Thornton W. Burgess. In his 1914 book, Adventures of Peter Cottontail, Brer (brother) Rabbit gets a new name. “Peter Rabbit has changed his name/In future without fail/You must call him, if you please,/Mr. Cottontail.”

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