Happy Easter. I thought I would dust off an republish my lost post on the adorable Marsh Rabbits that grace my garden.
Dateline: April 6, 2012*
Last week I spotted a bunny rabbit hopping through my neighbor’s yard. Far away, I got a photo that looks more like a painting. But the rabbit appeared to me to be an adult. As I’ve said in the past, my property always provides an article idea for me, and this week very timely and holiday appropriate. I’m thrilled with my encounter. However, rabbits are a joy to some and a bane to others.
Today we had some much needed rain and reluctantly Tanner(2002-20017), the English setter (he who is terrified he might melt) went out the door (with a strong shove from behind). He barely stepped off the patio when I spotted a bunny rabbit hopping in MY yard, in the tall grasses from the semi-dog-free area into the dog area, next to the well pump. I told Tanner to hurry up so I could get him back into the house before the rabbit scent wafted through the air and into his scent-hound nostrils, where, I’m sure he would immediately forget about his rain fear and would give chase. Tanner was quick and quite cooperative, perhaps since the scent of my fresh-perked coffee was quite strong, coming from the exhaust vent.
When I called the dog, bunny reversed and headed back, but as I stood quietly on the steps it inched out again to give me a distant photo or two. I stepped quietly to get closer but my movement caused a reverse in direction again. That’s when I spotted more movement…at least two hopping away. It appears that the miracle of birth has taken place and the kits are out on their own. Since I already disturbed them which sent them on their way, I walked back to continue morning photographs of flowers and I heard a squeal when a mockingbird and gray catbird were doing battle along the neighbor fence. There was rustling in the scrub and I saw hopping movement away from the B-52 bomber flights. Here I always thought that bunnies were silent. Apparently they know how to sound the alarm when frightened.
Upon examination of the photos, I’m leaning toward an identification of Marsh Rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris) over Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus). The young seem very dark and the ears look smaller and rounder than the cottontails I’ve seen around. I’ve had Marsh Rabbits in the past…living in my neighbor’s scrub area, but visiting my pond at night, as evidenced by the rabbit trail through the fence. That’s not to say that I haven’t also had Cottontails. Since I didn’t get a good look at the retreat, I can’t say for sure. I know that they weren’t domestic white rabbits that I’ve also seen hopping around, the result of some irresponsible human, I’m sure. Rabbits eat greens many of which some consider “weeds”. Leave some cranesbill, plantain or bidens alba around your vegetable garden and you just might save some of your vegetable plants from the munchers…they might be too full to continue in to the “cash crops”.
I hope that these rabbits are living next door, safe from dog harm, although given the way that Tanner has been working the brambles, they may actually be in my yard. However, much of the bramble, consisting of blackberry, fern and bluestem grasses are apparently impenetrable and a close inspection by me today confirms that there is no way Tanner could get in there. He must just be chasing the scents through the area that looks like a rabbit run.
Not to be outdone by bunnies, I had other hippity-hopping visitors the past two weeks. Southern Toads (Bufo terrestris or Anaxyrus terrestris) have visited the patio and I’m grateful. I noticed some palmetto bugs as of late and I appreciate that the toads and snakes generally keep these guys in check. I must say that this week I didn’t see any palmettos…one of the few bugs that creeps out this bug lover. Soon the toads will make their way back to the pond to lay eggs. Despite spending most time on land, toads need water to lay eggs and reproduce. Southern toads eat ants, bees, beetles, crickets, roaches, snails, and other invertebrates.
So, this is my Easter reminder to you. Eat bunnies…chocolate or marshmallow…please, not my marsh guys as hasenpfeffer, although if you do hunt for food, I really don’t have a problem with that. Hey, we all have a place as predators in the food chain. If you beat the hawks to them, you deserve the reward. I might suggest a different time of year though. If the Easter Bunny sees any pickling spices around, you might just find your basket empty.
Happy Bunny Day! and here’s to the Toads too!
*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on April 6, 2012 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.