Another unexpected biology lesson

(Warning... this lesson did not have a happy ending. You have been forewarned.)

We are over run with rabbits in our neighborhood. They are everywhere. When I come back home in the early evening, it is not uncommon to find five rabbits sitting in my yard happily eating the hostas. They even have babies in a warren in the middle of my front yard. Nearly every year. The only house on the block that routinely has many children running around it. No one said they were bright.

This year we have had an uncommonly large number of little baby rabbits hopping about. They are cute, but... the children are in love with them. They want to hold them and love them and squeeze them and pat them on their cute little heads. TM really wanted to try to catch on and make it a pet. (Yes, I know that it doesn't work to try to make a pet a of wild bunny, but not everyone wants to hear that.) The bunnies are also very fast. They will let you get within a foot or so of them, and just when you think you could bend down and scoop one up, they are off like a flash. You just can't catch a healthy wild rabbit with your bare hands. Which is why I told TM that if he did catch one we could keep it. 

Yes, I know. Famous last words.

We walked home from church on Sunday and TM had run ahead. When we caught up, he was sitting on the ground with a baby bunny in his lap. My first thought was that this must be a very sick baby bunny to have let itself be caught, and I wasn't far off. M. was with us, and being our resident amateur biologist, she took over. (Hooray!) The little rabbit wasn't sick, but it was injured. It appeared to have severed or damaged (internally) its spinal column because it's back legs didn't seem to function, yet they didn't seem to be broken. The adults in the family all knew this was going to end badly, but with a passel of children standing around we also knew that leaving it to be eaten by a passing fox, raccoon, or falcon wasn't an option. Nor was helping it along its inevitable path. 

M. took one of the dozens of tanks she has stored on our back porch and made a nice little nest for the bunny and did some research on how to care for it. We were careful to smuggle the bunny into the house and put it in a room with a latching door before Gretel became aware of it. (Gretel LOVES rabbits. They are the best plaything ever. We try to keep her away from them.) The first day, it looked as though maybe the pessimists among us would be wrong and M. was suddenly thinking that she would have to design and build a little bunny wheelchair for his back legs. Here is the little bunny on Sunday.

You can see there was something up with his back legs. This is not how rabbits normally sit.

He liked the carrots and greens and eventually ate the whole plate full.

Sunday passed... rabbit lived... Monday morning came... rabbit still alive and we gave him more food and water. Monday afternoon came and little rabbit was starting to breath very shallowly. Uh oh. The adults all knew this was not good. By late afternoon, the little rabbit was on its side, breathing very shallowly. Uh oh, really not good. By evening, M. was telling D. that he could use the leftover alfalfa hay for the gerbil. In my mind, it was a much better end... warm, dry place, good food... than being eaten by any of our resident predators. 

Life is never dull around here.


Carla said…
I grew up on a farm and although I do not miss the volumes of work that all those animals bring, I do wonder how I will teach my son that death is a part of life. We saw it fairly often on the farm, but here in a subdivision, it's not so frequent or evident.

Good lessons - very hard lessons, but good ones.
sandwichinwi said…
And how did TM do?

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