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Speaking of Nature

Kids & Critters: a fat rabbit

  • This photo shows the rabbit eating birdseed on my deck.<br/>Bill Danielson photo

    This photo shows the rabbit eating birdseed on my deck.
    Bill Danielson photo

  • This photo shows the rabbit eating birdseed on my deck.<br/>Bill Danielson photo

All winter long, I have been noticing something rather odd. It doesn’t happen every single night, but at least a couple times a week it appears as though rabbits will walk out onto my deck. This is odd because my deck is very large and it also is very high off the ground. I know the rabbits get onto the deck over by my driveway, where the deck is at ground level, but what I don’t know is why they do it.

How do I know that rabbits are on my deck at night? I’d never seen a rabbit do this, but I know they do it in the winter. So how do you suppose I can see where rabbits have been hopping in the winter? That’s right! They leave their tracks in the snow. You must have remembered that from the last kids column.

I thought this was a little peculiar, but I just chalked it off to an adventurous rabbit going on a bit of an adventure. I know the rabbits like to follow the side of my garage, cross the driveway and go under the deck because I’ve actually seen them do this many times in the summer. I also know that snow is often blocking their path in the winter, so I figured that they just took a detour while they searched for an alternate route.

But it turns out that I was selling the rabbits short. I now realize that the rabbits weren’t being fooled, nor were they simply exploring. It turns out that the rabbits were very deliberately visiting my deck. The reason that I know this is because I finally saw a rabbit on my deck and I finally saw what it was doing there.

It was last Saturday morning and I had opened my eyes rather earlier than I would have liked. It was just about 7 and the sun had just come over the horizon. So I decided to get out of bed and stock up my bird feeders for the birds’ breakfast. I stumbled into the kitchen and was approaching the kitchen door when I suddenly saw this mysterious rabbit on my deck.

The rabbit was sitting on the crusty snow under my bird feeders and it was very clearly eating birdseed. I was amazed, but I was also concerned. Being great young scientists, and being armed with the skepticism of scientists, I knew you would never believe me if I couldn’t prove it. I knew I needed to capture this moment with my camera, but my camera was up in my office. Could I get the camera and make it back to the window before the rabbit left? I had to try.

Rabbits are very skittish creatures. They are very much aware that many different animals would like to eat them so they are very careful about strange noises and sudden movements. I was concerned that activity (even inside the house) would scare off the rabbit, so I decided to move as quickly as I could. I raced up the steps, grabbed the camera I needed and raced back down.

Then I decided to start taking photos even though I wasn’t in a very good spot. Better to have a less-than-perfect photo than no photo at all, right? And it’s a good thing I did this, too! Well before I got into a good position, the rabbit saw me and took off like a shot. It didn’t even pause to let me know it was going to hop away. It only took two big leaps in the blink of an eye and it was gone.

So now that the mystery is solved, I have decided to put a little extra seed out at sunset. I know none of the birds will visit in the dark, but I bet the rabbits will come to eat under the moonlight. From the size of the rabbit, you can tell that it is a very plump creature that has fattened up on a rich diet of birdseed. I hope it’s a female so she will have lots of fat little babies in the spring!

Bill Danielson has worked as a naturalist for 16 years. In that time, he has been a national park ranger, a wildlife biologist and a field researcher. He currently works as a high school chemistry and biology teacher. His Speaking of Nature column runs weekly in The Recorder, except for the first Thursday of each month, which is when his Kids and Critters column for young readers appears. To contact Bill, or to learn more about his writing, visit www.speakingofnature.com.

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