The closest stop sign is over a mile away and the first traffic light is 5+ miles down the road. A visit to the grocery store is almost 30 miles round trip. It's quiet here; just the sound of toads and coyotes at night. It seems very still, but when you look close there's always something happening. Read on about a few things we've noticed over the past few years.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Cottontail tale - bunnies a plenty

They are everywhere.  They are too numerous to count. At any time I can look out my window I see two or three.  When we first planted grass in our yard the bunnies would feast by the dozens.  One evening I looked out and counted 20 rabbits eating the grass on a patch that's only about 20' by 50'.  Drastic measures had to be taken or we wouldn't have a yard.  We installed 400' of fence and this has kept them out.  The bits of grass just outside the fence is always chewed to the nub and have never required cutting thanks to the bunnies, they keep it nice and trim.  We do have to use the leaf blower occassionally to blow away all of the bunny poop that accumulates in those spots.  We have another area outside of our fenced yard that is about 6' wide and 30' long.  We planted it with grass nearly 3 years ago and have NEVER mowed it, the rabbits keep it nice and short for us.  However, I wouldn't ever sit in that patch of grass or you'd find your pants dotted with bunny poop.

The first battles started between us and them as we started landscaping, my adoration quickly dried up when I saw the damage they can do.   I took a while to figure out which plants they will devour and which they won't.   We took to target shooting for a while but with the population so large it didn't do much good.   Plus retrieving dead bunnies isn't much fun and if we left them out we'd find the dogs walking around carrying them in their mouths.  I wish the dogs were motivated to chase them, but their not - too old and fat and lazy.   Now that we have our fence up and have figured out what plants will last outside of our gates, my hatred has subsided.   My neighbors planted a lawn last year, put up a fence and went on vacation.  When they came back two weeks later their lawn had all but disappeared.  The rabbits had found a way in.  I've been told an adult bunny can get through a fence hole the size of a golf ball. 

I've identified two types of rabbits in my area: Cottontails and Jack Rabbits.  I see twenty Cottontails for each one Jack Rabbit.  The picture above is of a juvenile Cottontail.  The Desert Cottontail is not usually active in the middle of the day, but it can be seen from late afternoon till sunrise.  While it prefers grass, it will eat many other plants, even cacti. It rarely needs to drink, getting its water mostly from the plants it eats or from dew.  Many animals prey on the bunnies including Coyotes, Hawks, Owls, Snakes, Cougars, and Bobcats.  The bunny's defense is a zig zag run of up to 19 mph.  Against smaller predators they try to kick free.  The young are born in a shallow burrows or above ground, but they are helpless and hairless when born, and do not leave the nest until they are three weeks old.  Bunnies don't dig, they inhabit abandoned holes from other animals or take refuge under dense brush.  Females can have up to 30 babies a year!  Adults grow to be up to 17" long and up to 3.5 lbs.  Watching the adults chase each other and play is amusing.  I've often seen them play tag and leap frog.  Now that I've got them out of my immediate yard, I'm enjoying them much more.   

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