From My Window - Welcome Spring
By Jane Thibodeau Martin, daughter of the Old-Time
I am reveling in signs of spring " just weeks from arriving in Marinette County, I am sure.
The trees are leafing out, my green onion tops are poking through the soil and the birds are trying to outdo one another with their wonderful singing.
While cleaning up and watering my little herb garden, I encountered another sure sign of spring.
I started a water hose running at the higher end of the garden while I pulled some dead vegetation out. Suddenly I noticed the mulch heaped up in an area just ahead of the advancing water quivering. I shut off the water but then looked with some trepidation at the little mound of mixed mulch and dog hair. There is dog hair all over our yard right now, since I brush Wolfgang, our half collie, outside every day. Wads and tufts of collie hair roll around in the breeze, tangle in the shrubs and cling to the fence. Wolfgang sheds prodigiously, in fact he would make an awesome sheep.
Now, I often think when I generate a dog hair snowstorm outside that perhaps some birds will incorporate this fiber in their nests, but this area was clearly not a bird nest. And here in Oklahoma, we have some insect, animal, reptile and amphibian neighbors who must be treated with respect " Scorpions, Black Widow and Brown Recluse spiders, several kinds of venomous snakes, and Tarantulas, (which are not dangerous per se, but who are capable of precipitating heart attacks in people who don't like spiders, especially hand-sized black hairy ones.)
I have seen toads burrowed into my garden mulch, but they never incorporate dog hair or other fiber into their abodes. So I found a twig, and very gently nudged just a tiny bit of the covering away from the mound " and saw several tiny baby rabbits in a heap.
We have lots of Cottontail rabbits right now in our neighborhood, in fact they drive my poor dogs to total distraction. And I have found nests before, often in shallow depressions in the grass, carefully camouflaged with vegetation. However, I've never found one literally next to the house wall before, only a few feet from the fence that encloses our dog run. This Mama rabbit picked a high-risk location, but her secret is safe with me. I won't water until the babies leave home, and will keep the dogs away from the area.
Cottontails are famous for their reproductive rates. An adult female gestates a litter in only 30 days, each litter having 4-12 baby rabbits. The doe can mate again the day after a delivery, so you can do the math on how rapidly Cottontails reproduce. And that's a good thing, because in the wild their life expectancy is two years or less; wildlife biologists estimate that 80 percent of the adult rabbits in any given area die every year due to predation or disease. And of those millions of babies born, less than 50 percent survive more than one month.
EVERYTHING likes to eat rabbits " snakes, dogs, cats, coyotes, wolves, mink, otters, raccoons, rats, raptors of all sorts, even red squirrels will take baby rabbits if given an opportunity. And we humans like rabbit, too.
So those little bunnies have the odds stacked against them, but perhaps their location, so close to a house and scent protected by the overwhelming smell of dogs, and dog hair in their nest, will allow them to beat the odds. I covered them back up without touching them and will avoid the area for a few days, to give them the best chance I can of survival.
Watch for another rabbit column by mid-summer, where I am railing against the destruction of my garden by these adorable little rascals.
You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.
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