Rabbit populations undergo ten-year cycles of ups and downs, and according to local biologists, their numbers peaked two years ago. We had a first inkling of this in 2015, when hordes of small critters overran the yard, and sprinted from the car’s headlights left and right at dusk and dawn. A more immediate reminder was the unexpected presence of a tiny ball of gray in the window well of our downstairs bedroom which we detected after a rustling sound reached our half-awake ears through the window. To say we were surprised to find a rabbit in the hole is an understatement. Was this a dream, and would Alice follow?
We did not know if it had fallen down 4 feet from ground level, or crawled through a French drain (if it had, it did not want to leave that way again), but we were relieved to detect no obvious injuries. The velvety baby simply sat there, twitching its teeny nose, tilting its delicate ears this way and that.
How to rescue this little creature? When we slid open the window and removed the screen, the cottontail vanished into the drain, only to reappear a few minutes later. It stayed close to this escape hatch, and availed itself of it each time we tried to catch it. After what amounted to at least one hour, it finally hopped far enough away for us to cover the hole and to capture it in a blanket. We carried it outside, where it scurried underneath a juniper bush and sat nonchalantly, as if nothing had happened.
When nighttime noises emerged from the window well last May, we looked at one another in disbelief. We closed the window and waited till daybreak, but otherwise repeated the same procedure as before. In the course of the summer, we had to perform this ritual twice more, and successfully released bunnies number two, three, and four. We suspected them of playing a game of dare: Who gets to keep us busy the longest?
According to scientific predictions, rabbit numbers were supposed to be trending downward, and we were hoping for an uneventful season. But 2017 did not disappoint and brought no change to their tendency to disrupt our slumber. To our knowledge, this house had not seen an animal rescue in almost thirty years, but now we are three for three. Apparently they are not interested in statistics.
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