Cottontail rabbits are common around the cabin, but this year they seem even more numerous than usual. It’s typical to see 6-8 of them right now on every walk with the dogs, much to the delight of the dogs. Most of these will likely be dead by fall. Everything from mosquito-borne disease to predation to accidents will reduce their population substantially by late summer. In the wild, few live longer than a year, with annual death rates estimated at 75-80% of the population. Their lifespan could be 3-4 years but that rarely happens.
Rabbits are mostly nocturnal, and I most often see them in the early morning and late evening. They like to hide in brushpiles and will eat a wide variety of vegetation, consuming about 40% of their 2-3 pound weight each day.
This morning Dog and I walked up very close to one before it spooked. I didn’t see it before it ran, and I don’t think Dog did either. When it took off, so did Dog. Rabbits normally have a zig-zag escape pattern. This one had more of a circle, which meant Dog circled me several times while chasing the rabbit, an event of historic importance in his life. The more usual pattern of our rabbit encounters is that a rabbit takes off, Dog runs to the end of the flexi-lead, nearly pulls my arm out of its socket and rabbit disappears into the brush. Since this rabbit circled, Dog kept chasing for seconds longer than usual, and the best part of all, is that my arm remained securely in its socket. I’m pretty sure the rabbit circled me about three times. Eventually, of course, the rabbit did disappear into the brush, but by then Dog was running out of steam so no arm jerking came at the end of this encounter. He sure was one happy Dog, though.