When the morning sun rises outside our picture window on Little Bay on Sconticut Neck in Fairhaven, our outlook dawns a little brighter with each passing day now that the spring is emerging.
We feel like venturing outdoors for spring clean up after April showers and stormy winds. We are surprised to be greeted by several Cottontail Rabbits on our lawn, munching on lush green blades of grass. We haven’t seen them all winter, as they were hibernating in edges of nearby woodlands living on a diet of bark stripped from young trees. When we go out to raise a doubt of their appetite for perennial leaves, they often freeze at our approach with a wide-eyed stare of innocent astonishment.
If we proceed too close for comfort, they can turn on a dime to bound away with a bunny’s signature, hippity-hop retreat, while flashing the white cottontail as a flag of unconditional surrender. This shy creature has a Latin species title of Sylvilagus floridamus, perhaps the latter sounding like a love of florals. However, it is best known for leading a very socially promiscuous life.
After breeding in April, there will follow three more litters before the end of summer, each with five or more young ones. And by September, the litter from the first clutch will already have had a litter of their own. This cornucopia of reproduction is an annual ample food supply for predators, to dwindle down their numbers, in a hard-hearted process called balancing nature.
Whether we should welcome rabbits with open arms is debatable, but my nearby daughter loves and raises an English domestic breed. She is so keen on ours, perhaps she read “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” as a child. As in my illustration, the often-naughty Peter was warned by his mother, Molly, not to go near Mr. MacGregor’s vegetable garden or he might wind up in a Rabbit Pie. Children’s literature of this kind, giving human names and behavior to animated creatures, is known as anthropomorphism. Actually, it is a very commendable insight into their lives, teaching youngsters to treat them the way they would like to be treated. One of the best examples is the classic “Bambi” by Felix Salten.
I hope you have found my tale of the Cottontail Rabbit entertaining as it was for me, a pleasant change and therapy from obsession of our recent pandemic phenomena.
By George B. Emmons