I woke up at 6:30 this morning and the sun was already streaming in through the bedroom windows, so I grabbed my camera to capture some morning light in the garden, before the harsh contrast of high sun arrived.
After snapping a few photos of the backyard, I walked around towards the back patio to discover the disembowled remains of two very young rabbits. Evidently a predator had discovered the rabbit nest sometime between when I went to bed at 11:00pm and early this morning. I started to scan around for the telltale wad of fur that rabbits use to insulate their nests.
To my surprise, the doe had built her nest but digging it against the inside of our patio retaining wall, right below the cover of a Blue Rug Juniper. I've been up close and personal with the retaining wall on a daily basis as I've taken photos of the patio garden, but not once did I ever notice the nest. Unfortunately for the baby bunnies, a neighborhood cat or other predator was more observant that I was.
After digging a hole beneath our Littleleaf Linden (Tilia americana), I buried the remains of the slaughtered bunnies before my son woke up to see their messy remains. He knows that these things happen in nature, but I didn't think he needed to be reminded of it in such a shocking way.
As I continued my walk around the garden, I noticed a small grey puff of fur in the lawn. Approaching it slowly, I thought I had covered the remains of the first two rabbits a bit early. But this one seemed to have survived the attack no worse for the wear. Panting in the middle of the lawn was an adorable, fully intact bunny.
His ears were still back against his head, so I took this as a sign that he was not yet weaned. Should I try to nurse him until he was older? Should I call the wildlife rescue clinic to bring him in? Should I just wait for the doe -- who was grazing in the side yard -- to come back and reclaim her sole kit? I decided not to intervene in nature. The bunny wasn't visibly injured and had plenty of food and water sources in our yard.
After taking some more photos of the new life in our garden, I noticed that my son had woken up. I urged him to get dressed and come outside to see what I had found. I explained to him that this rabbit was the sole survivor of the predator's attack last night, and we decided to call him Rocky -- in part for his survival skills, in part for his resemblance to the rock rabbits (pikas) that are found in the western states.
Rocky sat there, nose quivering a million miles an hour, for a few minutes as my son and I doted over how cute he was and how scared he must be right now. Eventually, he had enough of our presence and popped his ears up and hopped gingerly off to the side yard where his mother was still grazing.
I don't know what Rocky's fate holds, but I wish him luck and grant him free reign in our garden today. In my continual love-hate battle with these voracious rabbits, I'm leaning towards love this morning.
At least until Rocky eats one of my prized hosta.
(As a side note, if you view the large version of the top photo, you can see Rocky hidden in the lawn -- unbeknown to me at the time -- between the light colored circle in the lawn and the cherry tree on the right.)