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Eastern Cottontail Rabbit
Sylvilagus floridanus

Listen: I am an avid gardener/small farmer. Spring veggies are also my favorite things in the season, specifically peas, and beans, and tender little chards and lettuces. To make a long story short, my very huge plastic deer fence (it contains about 3.5 acres) kept getting holes chewed in it so frequently that I couldn’t keep up with repairs. I think you can see where this story is going…

OH RABBIT. OH RABBITS. I have a major issue with you. Why can’t you just continue to eat the nice tender clover in my yard rather than all of my sweet succulent veggies which frankly are planted for human consumption! But if you must, why can’t you just nibble a little leaf edge now and then, RATHER THAN CHOPPING AND RAZOR CUTTING THE ENTIRE PLANT DOWN TO THE NUB???

They say when chased, this rabbit runs in a zigzag pattern, up to 18 mph, which admittedly for a little guy, is pretty fast. I don’t think I can run 5 mph! I have definitely not chased and caught any of the rabbits I have found in my garden. I mean, by the time I see them, they are already gone.

As I was researching this entry, because I wanted to have some factual information besides my grievances about the rabbits eating my garden veggies, I found that you can in fact eat these rabbits. I learned to butcher and cook a rabbit in Italy, and have found them pretty tasty if cooked properly (rabbit is such a lean meat you need to make sure it doesn’t dry out). I haven’t actually killed and skinned a rabbit however, and it’s not currently on my to-do list. So it turns out, if YOU want to eat one of these little fuzzy friends, you really only want to do that between October and February. That is to help prevent you from getting Rabbit Fever.

Then of course I had to look up “what is Rabbit Fever…” see, this is how our curiosity pushes us down the rabbit hole (doh!)… Rabbit Fever, otherwise known as Tularemia, is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. Lots of rodents and other animals can get it – it is highly contagious and potentially fatal, but can be treated with antibiotics. I was going to list the symptoms but I figured if you’re curious, you can google that yourself, since this is really a website about plants and animals, not about infectious diseases. However my final word on this is that there is some concern about Francisella tularensis being used as a bioweapon.

Size: 14–19" in length
Family: Leporidae (Hare Family)
Habitat: My garden, your garden. Also open "grassy areas, clearings, and old fields supporting abundant green grasses and herbs, with shrubs in the area or edges for cover."
Identification: Grayish brown color. Long ears, fluffy white tail. Looks cute, until it eats all your peas.
All text and photos copyright © 2022 Middle Way Nature Reserve, unless noted.
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