I’ve told rabbit stories on this blog a number of times. In fact, my very first post featured a rabbit nest and a tragedy involving a young hawk. In 2012, I devoted several posts to a nest that eventually fell prey to a mysterious attack during the night. To follow the story, see these posts:
- A Busy Evening in the Yard
- A Leopard Frog and a Blogging Meme
- The Rabbit Nest at Twilight
- Rabbit Nest Update
- The Rabbits Leave Their Nest (and Return)
- Update from the Rabbit Nest
- The Rabbits Lose Their Nest
- Rabbit Update and a Publication Note
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been following a new rabbit nest in the yard, and I’m beginning to doubt the story I constructed in 2012.
When I first found the new nest, freshly dug during the first week of May, it was empty. But a few days later, tufts of hair led me to investigate again.
This time there were babies! Thinly haired, eyes-closed babies that couldn’t have been more than three or four days old. Resisting the temptation to run for my camera, I tucked the grassy cover back into place and vowed to avoid disturbing the rabbits again. But then I found the grass displaced, two days later, and feared another predator had visited. Since I was checking anyway…
I didn’t want to wake them, so I didn’t get an accurate count. There were three bunnies at least. Maybe four. Maybe more? At any rate, apparently healthy baby rabbits sleeping comfortably in their hair-lined nest.
The mother rabbit visited every evening near sunset, to feed her offspring and clean the nest.
After each visit, she carefully re-covered the nest.
Day after day after day…
The scene was eerily similar to what happened in 2012. As before, I found one of the babies hiding on the other side of the yard but couldn’t find the rest.
And, as before, when the mother rabbit showed up to feed her babies that night, more of the litter came out of hiding.
The new arrivals raised the count of surviving babies to three. After they nursed, all three began exploring the yard. Two hopped in and out of the corner iris bed while the third ran back and forth along the fence. They popped in and out of sight so often that it became impossible to say exactly how many rabbits were playing in the yard. At least three, but quite possibly more.
The next night, the rabbits were in the irises and under the deck. They were getting increasingly adept at hiding, and they definitely spent less time nursing when their mother arrived.
All of this makes me reconsider my assumptions in 2012. What if there was no predator, then or now? What if the babies simply left their nest, scattering hair and dried grass as they emerged? Perhaps, instead of being driven out, this is the rabbit equivalent of fledging.