I often note in nature the numerous quarrels, disputes and downright fighting matches between various members of the wildlife community. When I consider the enormous scale of violence within human species, it brings my mind to settle on the thought that ‘peace and harmony’ is somewhat of a myth or only temporary at best and not the natural order of things. The mind must cultivate compassion to harvest an abundance of harmony.
Much of it comes down to space or territory and respecting boundaries. Countries have borders and often large fences, walls and border guards to protect them. Homeowners will put up fences, walls and gates around their land to keep out any intruders . . . including wild beasts. (Closing off much needed corridors for animals.) Wildlife have more invisible borders . . . birds will sing and defend a certain amount of space around their nests but will mostly co-habit peacefully with other species, while not tolerating their own nearby. Other beasts will mark their territory with urine and other creative rubbing or clawing to warn or alert other critters to their dominance.
This line of thinking is directly linked to the seventh installment of my Bestiary . . . the beastly Cottontail Rabbits . . . and the lack of respect they have for boundaries of any kind along with the need of this farmer/gardener to nurture tolerance and acceptance, if not a change of diet.
Cottontails are truly beasts to contend with here at Flower Hill Farm . . . not only regarding a competition for food, but many beloved native shrubs and small trees fall prey to their gnawing especially over the winter months. Early on in my encounters with cottontails, I mistakenly believed there was only one species hopping about the gardens, fields and forest, but in fact there are two. Our native New England cottontails Sylvilagus (Sylvilagus) transitional, are being consider for the endangered list due to the introduced Eastern cottontail’s Sylvilagus (Sylvilagus) floridanus, zealous procreation.
The front gardens and my terrace gardens have evolved into a nursery for baby cottontails. Not only do I have to diversify what I plant for edible greens . . . rabbits do not seem to care for arugula or bok choy . . . but I now also must rethink how I plant in pots the little buggers can jump up on.
Clever parents taught their young to stay near the house thereby safe from predators. Bunnies enjoy dining on my potted plants! We can clearly see the Eastern cottontail ‘white mark’ on the head of the little one above.
Rabbits are beasts I could happily never encounter here at Flower Hill Farm. My terrace garden is mostly for the hummingbirds and it is lucky that the salvias they enjoy are not palatable to the cottontails.
I have changed my way of gardening to make living with rabbits more tolerable.
In an earlier installment of this Bestiary, I did share a story of my allowing a young hunter here one year and how his harvest of a cottontail rabbit invited an unexpected guest. Knowing that I am helping raise healthy food for other wildlife . . . in one case even humans . . . lightens the burden of living with cottontails. I only wish the native New England cottontails had survived here . . . it seems the two do not interbreed . . . for perhaps they were more aware of our natural boundaries.
© 2012, Carol Duke. All rights reserved. This article is the property of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. If you are reading this at another site, please report that to us