A friend, someone I knew in college, found a nest with two newborn bunnies in his yard. They were just days old, eyes still squinched shut against the world. Here's a photo Percival (not his real handle) uploaded on Facebook for all to see:
Naturally, Percival's 1,200-plus FB friends were in raptures over the photo, with lots of comments about how precious/sweet/adorable/cute the little guy is, along with suggestions for names, and a few jokes about rabbit stew.
I'm conjecturing here, but I believe Percival, buoyed by the comments his photo generated, decided it was his duty to keep the Sheeple informed of the bunnies' progress with a pictorial diary. This, of course, meant repeatedly uncovering the nest, handling the little creatures, and just being, in general, the worst kind of neighbor possible.
Again, the photos generated a barrage of positive comments, with some folks calling Percival a rabbit whisperer. Percival was on a roll and not to be stopped. With the weather forecast calling for first, rain, and then, freezing temperatures, Percival set about building an enclosure to protect his charges from the elements, never mind that wild rabbits have evolved to survive harsh weather:
Mama bunnies don't stay with their babies. This keeps predators away from the little family. But mama hangs nearby, and visits a couple of times each day to feed her babies. Can you imagine what this particular mother rabbit must have thought when she encountered the new, but not necessarily improved, nest?
Despite my friend's best intentions, the poor bunnies were found dead on January 24. Percival announced the deaths on FB, saying the little things had not survived the cold. (My daughter's text to me after she read the blog, "The babies DIED?!") Percival lives in Austin, which ain't exactly Buffalo, NY when it comes to frigid weather. I Googled the overnight low temperature for Austin for January 23 - 24, and it was 26 degrees.
Now, I don't claim to be any kind of expert on wildlife, but in my opinion, these babies didn't expire from the cold, but from starvation. Mama got scared away from the constant interference or, being just a dumb bunny used to simple nests of hair, grass and dirt --- materials that have served her kind for untold eons --- she couldn't figure out how to get past the fortifications. Either way, the babies didn't get the nourishment they needed to accommodate their rapid growth and maintain their body heat in the cold. So much for being a rabbit whisperer.
A couple of springs ago, a sparrow laid her eggs in an empty flower basket we had hanging in our backyard. The basket had hung out there all winter long --- for some reason, no one could be bothered to take it down and store it --- and it was nothing but packed down dirt, with a sort of depression in the middle where the flowers had been rudely yanked out. I can't imagine why this mama sparrow thought a basket of dirt would make a good nest; perhaps she was lazy. Firstly, the basket was completely, and I mean COMPLETELY, open to the elements. Secondly, it hung on a chain and it didn't take much of a breeze to blow the thing around. If there's such a thing as avian Section 8 housing, this was it.
Anyway, that damn mother bird made my life hell until her babies finally flew away. It was early spring and the nights were chilly, so I worried about hypothermia. I worried about direct heat from the sun. When the wind blew the basket, I worried the eggs would get tossed out like miniature hand grenades, or the babies would get seasick. When it rained, I worried. I worried about predators. I wouldn't let anyone out on the deck because I didn't want to disturb the babies and their idiot mother. Phoebe, who loves to prowl around our backyard, wasn't allowed out, either, and I had one very pissed-off cat on my hands. I wouldn't allow Richard to grill outdoors or mow too closely, which led to marital strife. Honestly, I worried and fretted more over those baby birdies, than I ever did over my own kids. In the end, we learned a very valuable lesson: put hanging baskets away for the winter.
Because of this, I understand only too well Percival's concern for the wee wabbits. The difference was that I kept my distance and didn't interfere, despite the mother bird's poor choice of suitable housing, and my strong desire to help make things a little more homey for the babies. Just little things. Like a roof, curtains and maybe a throw rug.
There's a book the Percivals of the world should read. It's called:
There's a Hair in My Dirt! tells the tale (from a lowly worm's perspective) of fair Harriet, a nature lover, whose dim understanding of the very thing she professes to love so much wreaks havoc wherever she goes. The amusing drawings and sly humor aside ("Father Worm sat back, stretching himself out to his full, glorious three and a half inches"), the story reminds us that we humans are very much a part of the natural world, not just interested observers in a cute and cuddly zoo. Nature is a complex, fragile and violent system where every creature plays a vital role. As wise Father Worm tells us, "...loving Nature is not the same as understanding it."
Rest in peace, little baby bunnies,
Rabbit pictures: from Percival's FB page (no links provided to protect Percival from PETA and bunnies bent on revenge)
Get notified of new content! Enter your email address in the space below to get started...