What must it be like to be a rabbit? To be an integral part of the food web because you can do the magic trick of converting the energy trapped in grass into food for meat-eating animals? To fear cats, dogs, fox, coyotes, wolves, humans- and to be surrounded by all of them day and night? The stress level must be enormous.
Last night a rabbit visited our yard and showed up on the compost cam. I’ve shared video of rabbits in the yard before, but the body language here is visibly different.
In previous videos, the rabbits zip in and out of the frame, frollicking as they look for food. This rabbit is hunched to the ground for most of the video. In fact, I have 10 separate clips that the cam recorded in a row of this rabbit which span about 11 minutes. They show the rabbit moving very slowly into the frame and laying nearly motionless as it eats the fallen corn and sunflower seeds. At one point, the rabbit stands upright for a minute, its ears telescoping around to hear the night around it, and then it lays back down almost flat on the ground to finish eating. Finally, it almost crawls out of the frame of the camera. I might have assumed this rabbit was sick, its behavior was so unlike the rabbits on the cam before. But I don’t think that is it. At 10 PM the night this video was taken, I took my dog for one last, long walk before bed. As we neared a marshy area nearby, he was on guard, peering through the darkness into the open area to our side. He stopped checking out every tree and ever new smell, instead pricking up his ears to listen carefully to the silence around us. And then it started. The yipping and barking of coyotes in the marsh. Their sound filled the air around us. Although the mix of barking and yipping rose from the marsh, it soon sounded as though it surrounded us, an eerie cloak of sound. Oliver, who previously walked next to me on a slack leash and is about twice the size of a coyote, trotted out in front of me, urging me to head home a little bit faster. As we walked, their voices died down, but then we heard others – a group up near the GDS school and another on the opposite side of the highway that runs through our town. Each group sounded like a pack of coyotes, even though I know coyotes have a talent for sounding like they have more friends around them than they actually do. Likely each of the groups we heard were only a pair claiming their own territory to raise their pups. This is the night that the little rabbit on our cam came out in. A night that scared my 80 pound dog, who is generally scared of nothing. He came out into the open of our yard because he had no choice. He needed to eat. But he was determined to draw as little attention to himself as he did it.
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