But Peter, who was very naughty, ran straight away to Mr. McGregor’s garden, and squeezed under the gate! ~ Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Peter Rabbit
When you have a wildlife garden you are going to attract wildlife even wildlife you may not be so excited to see. But it is hard to discriminate what wildlife might visit. My neighbor loves the birds, rabbits and deer but is afraid of snakes. We always get the call to take the snake away when they come a visitin’.
When I built a habitat to draw in birds and butterflies, along with them came a whole other group I had not expected including my nemesis the vole. But we accept them all in stride and accommodate as needed.
One of the most common mammals that visits my garden (besides the deer and voles) is the rabbit or eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus). For some gardeners, rabbits are not a pleasant sight because they will decimate a veg garden in a day. And they like many flowers you may not want to part with including natives. Emily DeBolt recently wrote a great post on our sister blog about bunny bustin’ natives so you can try to control the damage to your flower gardens. And I do mean try as rabbits will develop a taste for just about anything.
Now you can try to control them…yeah right….or you can learn to live with them. The only real deterrent I use is bird netting over the veg garden, and certain annuals like marigolds that keep them at bay from munching on the patio plants. These seem to have worked over the years in keeping the rabbits away from the veggies.
Our rabbits come in waves. We have not had many the last couple of years as the hawks, owls, eagles, fox, local cats and other predators are numerous. But this year we have two that visit especially a younger one who is content to eat the clover and tall grass I have not been able to weed out of the beds. I think having these options over the years has also kept the rabbits out of the flowers and veggies (or I could be dreaming).
We name our rabbits as we seem to adopt one a year who comes into the garden. We have had Harry, George and this year Benjamin who is pictured here. The rabbits this year seem to be living under the shed at the repossessed house next door which has great cover. But I do have a love/grrrrr relationship with them depending on what they get into.
So why do I love rabbits even when they get into my garden and munch away. Well they are so darn cute, and I have always loved The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Peter is just such a devil, but I can’t help loving him. My rabbits squeeze under the picket fence like Peter and roam around taste testing the salad bar as if they have found nirvana!
Eastern cottontails are found in meadows and shrubby areas in the eastern and south-central United States, southern Canada, eastern Mexico, Central America and northernmost South America. If there is high grass, meadow and shrubs nearby to hide, then you will find an abundance of rabbits. Rabbits find their dens that were dug by other critters or use the space under sheds. But they build their nests for the baby bunnies in high grasses or plant material like my wildlife garden. You can’t miss the nest if you see a grassy mass with a fur lining.
Rabbits don’t live long (about 15 months) which I am sure is why they reproduce so much. They are active year round and will forage on the bark of shrubs during winter if snow is covering plants. This especially true in my garden where I have to protect young trees and shrubs from these darlings.
- The Mohawk Indians learned to dance from rabbits
- African folklore tells stories of the trickster rabbit
- The Algonquins tell how the great white hare formed the earth
- In Europe (especially Ireland, Wales and Scotland), it was believed witches would turn themselves into hares, and it was bad luck if a hare crossed your path.
- In the 19th century England, country folk would not eat rabbits as they believed their grandmothers souls had passed in to the rabbits.
- Some cultures, like the Egyptians, Aztecs and Hindus, believed the rabbit was associated with the moon.
- Rabbits were also associated with fertility going back to the Greek and Roman times (we can certainly see why).
So do you have a love/grrrr relationship with any particular critter? Who do you enjoy seeing every year in your wildlife garden?
“Peter was not very well during the evening. His mother put him to bed, and made some chamomile tea: “One table-spoonful to be taken at bedtime.” ― Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Peter Rabbit
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