Saturday, May 02, 2009

Fighting off the invasion

Yesterday morning, I took Yin out at about 5:45 for her usual start-the-day-off-right pee, and walked half asleep down the steps from the deck to the garden, to suddenly find myself face to face with a rabbit. You may remember we had a struggle with a destructive rabbit a few years ago - it ended with me borrowing a trap, catching the rabbit, and then letting it go in a field on the other side of the river.

The rabbits have been back since, but none of them has done the damage of that original one, so I've been pretty laid-back about their incursions. They'd come by every 5 days or so (they seem to have a kind of circuit worked out, and must hit other yards in the neighbourhood in turn), eat some grass, then leave. Once we gave up growing carrots, there wasn't much that they were interested in that I could notice, so I didn't mind them; in fact, I rather enjoyed seeing rabbits in the yard from time to time.

The last time we saw this rabbit (last week), Yin had been completely flummoxed by it, and didn't really know what to do. She trotted a few steps toward it, but the rabbit was having nothing of her investigations, and immediately left via the big gap at the bottom of the gate. This time, Yin was ready and gave chase. It wasn't much of a contest, and the rabbit immediately departed in the usual way. We then went down into the garden to look over the plants, and I figured that that was it for the morning's adventures.

But not so! When we headed back to the house, there was the rabbit again!. Yin chased it away in the same fashion, and we went inside. I thought that was a bit odd; these rabbits usually don't come back after they've been shown the door, at least not for a few hours, until they're sure the coast is clear. Then half an hour later, I looked out the window and couldn't believe - the rabbit had come back a THIRD time! This time I watched it. First it seemed to be digging a bit in a place where I have a few perennials and bulbs struggling against the crabgrass. I figured it was trying to unearth a bulb to eat it. A few minutes later, I saw it had crossed to another spot, and was pulling up some creeping thyme groundcover - no surprise that it would like to eat that, I thought. But wasn't eating it. It was carrying it! Right over to that...hole.

Uh oh. I know from 'Watership Down' that rabbits don't carry food with them to eat somewhere else. I took a closer look and saw that the rabbit was making several trips with mouthfuls of thyme, and it was stuffing them down the hole. I know what this means when birds do it, so I went to the computer and did a quick search and found that it was as I suspected: this rabbit wasn't a HE, he was a SHE, and she was building a nest! I was going to have a litter of baby rabbits right in my back garden!

What to do? My first impulse was soft-hearted; I mean, come on - rabbits are CUTE!

The reports said that these are temporary burrows, and the rabbits actually live elsewhere in big warrens. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad - the babies would be born, grow quickly and then leave. But then I read that rabbits can have 7 litters a year! What if she decides that this is a great place for birthin' babies, and keeps coming back? How many rabbits would I have running around? Not to mention, that they mature quickly, and the litters would soon be able to have their own babies!

I finally went out to take a close look at what she was doing. I wasn't worried that there would be babies there already; the websites said that the mother rabbits do this nest-building a few days before they're due. So I chased her off (she didn't go far, though - she sat nearby watching me, and nonchalently washing her face!) and examined the burrow. I pulled out many clumps of thyme, then discovered something that made my mind up in a hurry: in the course of her burrowing, she'd dug right under one of my nice mature poppy plants, and completely severed its roots! The leaves just pulled off in my hand!

At this point I made up my mind: the rabbit had to go. I know she'd been back 3 times, so she must have thought that our yard was absolutely THE place, but this was too much. She was a fast digger; I figured if I tossed her out now, she'd still have plenty of time to dig a burrow somewhere else. So I chased her under the gate, and then barricaded the gap underneath with boards and bricks! I'll have to remove them every time I open it, but I can go a long time without having to open the gate, and this was too important. So far she hasn't been back, so I'm hoping she gave up on our place. I even threw the thyme over the fence into the wilderness to enourage her to make a burrow over there.


Blogger Alan Stewart said...

Wabbit stew?

I can't help but think of Jimmy Carter and his encounter with the 'killer rabbit', 30 years ago. Unfortunately pictures of the incident, which were displayed on the 30 years anniverary, now seem to have been removed.

6:22 pm  
Anonymous Linn from IA said...

Mr. Macgregor (and Beatrix Potter) applaud you! Maybe next time you can put a flowerpot over Mrs. Benjamin Bunny.

Just be grateful that it's bunnies and not groundhogs (do you call them marmots, in Canada?): the most vindictive stem-chewing off or stripping-all-the-leaves-off-the-stem-for-kicks little demons imaginable.

10:18 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

Oh, no, we call them groundhogs, and sometimes woodchucks. They're all around, but so far none has come into our yard. I saw one once in the yard next door - he was out in the open, eating the grass, then suddenly he started running like a maniac. Woodchucks have a very funny, rolling run when they try to go fast. A minute later, CRACK! BIG clap of thunder, and a lightning storm began. I guess he had some burrow nearby, and could sense the approaching cataclysm.

12:09 pm  

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