The cottontail rabbit I mentioned a month ago is still around.
When I didn’t see it for a few days and the entrance to the burrow near the front walk stayed covered with snow, I assumed it had met with the usual fate of bunnies around here, becoming dinner for a coyote or an owl. Then one day the burrow entry was open again, and soon after I started seeing the rabbit, dozing on its front stoop in the evenings.
The burrow is close enough to the hall window and front door that I can see the rhythmic twitching of the rabbit’s nose pause when the animal is alert to me, but the freeze behavior doesn’t usually last long. The rabbit has grown blasé about our movements in the house ten feet away. It could turn tail and scurry in its front door when I walk out of mine, but it doesn’t. I’ll admit I’m generally amused to see it.
This is not normal behavior for me.
Usually, I am intolerant of rodents. Having suffered persistent losses to my landscaping efforts for more than a decade, I’m jaded with regard to small mammals that nibble and gnaw. I’ll dash out the door shrieking when I see a chipmunk or ground squirrel or rock squirrel near the house. When I see a cottontail rabbit, I usually rush it with my arms waving over my head, yelling “Predator! I’m a predator, you little s**t!!” Going to fetch the camera is not my standard response.
My tolerance of this cottontail is a seasonal thing. I know it was attracted, in part, by the forage of my landscaping plants available on its doorstep, but it’s been a snowy winter and I’m having a hard time begrudging the fuzz ball some dormant thyme and veronica when the damage to the plants isn’t glaringly obvious. I couldn’t help but find it adorable when I watched the rabbit wiggle its butt into in a low snowdrift to create a sheltered hollow from which to nosh on a spray of bunchgrass stems.
I’ve been indulgent of our little neighbor, too, because rabbits don’t tend to last long around here. They turn up regularly near the barn, arriving as young ‘uns just out on their own, not much bigger than a hamster. They sprint to shelter under the horse trailer. They daintily munch on dropped hay (and at my ornamental wildflowers). They get used to my comings and goings, to the point where I can get within a few feet of them. Then, one day, they’ll be gone, usually before they’ve reached adult stature. Occasionally, I find a tuft of fur or a bony little foot on the ground. I have come across more than one cottony tail.
In this season of stillness and cold, the cute factor has won out. I’m willing to leave harassment and death threats to the owls and coyotes, for now. What I’ll do if the bunny next door survives until spring—or if a horde of babies joins it in enjoying the evening tranquility one day—I haven’t decided.