snowshoe hare

A Story of and by a Rabbit!

(intended for persons aged 8 and up)

snowshoe hareHi from the woods of northern Canada. If that makes me sound like an Eskimo............. WRONG! I am a............... are you ready for this?........................ a rabbit. Yup; one of those cute and cuddly, furry darlings.

And my name is Bun. Yeh; my parents were not terribly imaginative.

I would like to share with you a little (maybe a lot!) about life here, and maybe you can write back and tell me about your life. It's always nice to know more about others, even if some are rabbits and some are humans. We don't need to be of the same species in order to get along.

For you to get to know me better, here is a picture of me, taken very recently by a fellow who has a camera; I don't own such a tool; very few of us rabbits do.

This picture of me was taken in the summertime; in winter I look very different.

There are a couple of people (the Human kind) not far from here, in a cafe in town, and they are "old timers" which means that they sit there and drink coffee for a few hours every day to discuss "The Good Old Days." Their names are "Jake" and "Ira." Apparently, people of the town refer to these old geezers as the "Co-op Senators" but I don't know what that means; maybe you do. From time to time I'll tell you what they are discussing. I'll put their comments into italics and indent them like this:


Back at the cafe:

This is how I'll tell you what Jake and Ira are discussing over their morning coffee at the Co-op store cafe.


Home as I know it, is in northern Alberta, Canada; a truly wonderful country in many, many ways. Specifically, home for me is an area covered with willows where there are lots of places to hide.

When I was born, four of my siblings were born at the same time; there were five of us plus Mom in our little "hideout" in the willows. Apparently Mom had two other litters of baby rabbits the same summer that we five were born.

Humans have studied us "to death" and have put a lot of their findings on their "internet" which I have yet to see. They tell me that much of that information can be found here: http://srd.alberta.ca/FishWildlife/WildSpecies/Mammals/RabbitsRodents/SnowshoeHare.aspx

They have even assigned a scientific name to us; they call us "Lepus americanus" and I do appreciate their thoughtfulness. It helps boost our self-respect a little and we need that seeing that we, humble creatures that we are, are at the very bottom of the Food Chain. That's not a happy place to be but we manage and are happy to be a source of food for other creatures.

weaselIn fact, of the five of us who were born when I was born, one of my siblings, within a couple of days of being born, was grabbed by a weasel and taken away never to be seen again. I guess the weasel was hungry and maybe had a litter of baby weasels to feed. Mom and we remaining four babies were very shocked at such violence but we understand that this is to be expected when you happen to be at the bottom of that Food Chain.

Those weasels are very small; we are much larger but even when we are full-grown, they will attack us if they are hungry and we can't do much more than run away best we can and hope to escape.

weaselWe do have one other defence mechanism besides running; in the wintertime, when there is white snow all over everything, we shed our brown summer coat (which you saw on the picture you have already seen of me, and we put on our white winter fur coat.

This makes us much harder to see, particularly when we sit absolutely still.

Unfortunately for us rabbits, the weasel ALSO sheds his brown summer coat in the fall and switches to his white winter coat making him much harder for us to see.

Our extra-large ears are a big help in avoiding danger too; we don't need hearing aids!


Back at the cafe:

Jake: Hey Ira, been out in the bush lately? Got started trapping yet?

Ira: Yeah; been out couple times; got a couple marten. Hey, did you notice that the rabbits are back?

Jake: Sure did; been a long time since we saw any number of rabbits.

Ira: Shows you how much those "biologists" know; they used to tell us that rabbits hit the peak of their cycle every seven years. Well, it has been about 30 years since I last saw any number of rabbits out there.

Jake: For sure, yeh. Might be a good thing for trappers, eh, more rabbits means more fur-bearing predators such as lynx, coyotes, wolves, weasels, fishers and even squirrels etc, right?

Ira: To a point, yes, but rabbits also get into our snares and that does us trappers no good; it just messes up the snare and rabbits are no good to us; furs are of no value at all.

Jake: Right, and if it is meat you want, you take a moose instead.

Ira: Hey, Jake, HOW DO YOU CATCH A UNIQUE RABBIT?
Unique up on it.
HOW DO YOU CATCH A TAME RABBIT
Tame way, unique up on it.


snareAh, those trappers. Yes, I know what Ira means. Just the other day I was minding my own business eating dry weeds in the willow-patch when I noticed one of those snares set by Ira to catch a lynx.

While I love to see Ira get rid of a lynx or two, this snare had caught one of my unfortunate relatives and then a coyote had come along and eaten him up. I very nearly ran into one myself; just as I was about to hop through this hole in the bushes, I saw the snare hanging there and stopped just in time.

Just one more danger we face every day of our short (one year) lives. Yes, on average we live only one year. I cannot even imagine living for 80 or 90 years; that sounds like forever!


owlEarlier, I mentioned how one of my siblings was killed by a weasel.

A few weeks after that horrible incident, I lost one more of my siblings when an owl swooped down out of the sky and took him away, never to be seen again. Like the weasel, maybe the owl also had babies to feed.

I wish these owls and also the hawks would stick to eating mice; there a lots of those around and they would be helping the farmers more if they stuck to a "mouse diet."

Danger surrounds us poor rabbits on all sides.


Back at the cafe:

Ira: Speaking of rabbits, Jake, did I ever tell you that they are prone to heart attacks just as we are?

Jake: Nah; you're pulling my leg, right?

Ira: No, I'm serious. One time I happened to see along the highway a sign that offered rabbits for sale so I drove in. Seems these farm folks had started raising rabbits - the big ones - for meat and when time came to butcher them, they just did not have the heart to kill them. They had become like pets. So I bought four very tiny ones and took them home. My daughter happened to have several friends over so each of the girls took a little tiny baby rabbit on her lap to pet. Next thing you know, my daughter says, "Hey Dad, this one is DEAD!" Sure enough; it had apparently died of a heart-attack.

Jake: Well, how about that. Never heard of such a thing. Learn something every day.


coyoteNext day the remaining three of us were following Mom around the willow patch looking for nice grass to eat, a coyote came out of the bushes and grabbed another of my siblings.

Most years coyotes can't find any of us rabbits so they eat whatever they can catch, such as mice, grouse and sometimes they will steal a farmer's chickens or a sheep.

If you are a rabbit, you just cannot win.

That left only me, one sibling and my Mom of our whole family.

bearShortly after that, my remaining sibling was taken by a bear. Black bears are very big animals with tremendous strength. They can dig us out of any holes that we might crawl into.

Not long after that, Mom figured she had taught me about all I needed to know so she told me to take off on my own. That is the way it goes for us rabbits, so I wished her well and left.

Rumour has it that Mom had another litter of baby rabbits since I left; I hear she had four this time.

I hope this new litter of babies survives better than the litter of which I was a part.

bark_chewedThere was lots of food around so there was no danger of me starving. I liked the grasses and most of the weeds and sometimes ate the bark off some branches that had been broken off trees.

I wonder if you have ever heard the true story of a rabbit which played a very pivotal role in what you humans refer to as "World War 2?" If you were to get the book "No Better Place to Die: Ste-Mere Eglise, June 1944-The Battle for la Fiere Bridge" by Robert M. Murphy you would learn that once there were a lot of U.S. soldiers preparing for a major attack on the Germans in Baupte, France. They were about ready to go when a rabbit came out of a hedgerow near them. The soldiers actually opened up on that rabbit with their rifles, pistols, submachine guns, and automatic rifles. There were so many guns going off and the soldiers got so "into it" that their morale skyrocketed making them more than ready to go into battle and at the same time, the Germans got the idea that there were far more attackers than they were expecting, and lost heart and lost the battle. GOOD for the French rabbit!


bark_chewedOnce in awhile a poplar tree gets knocked down by a very strong wind and then we enjoy the bark for supper.

The humans in the area where I live sometimes cut them down for firewood and when they do, they leave the tops of the trees laying on the ground for us to enjoy.

And those tops are the most tender parts of the tree too!

Thanks Humans! We appreciate any help you can give us.

But why a human would want a make a fire is something I'll never be able to understand. As I see it, fires are terribly dangerous and destructive.


Back at the cafe:

Jake: You eat rabbits?

Ira: Once in awhile; good old "Hopalong Chicken" we call it.

Jake: I read once, in a RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) survival manual that if your aircraft goes down and you need to find food to live off the land, forget about rabbits; no fat on 'em and not much energy value.

Ira: That sounds reasonable; never seen one with any amount of fat. I hear the natives used to cut rabbit skins into long thin strips and then weave them into furry blankets.

Jake: That would be warm. I heard of one fellow by the name of Anderson who, with a buddy was out many years ago, hunting squirrels which were worth a whole 40 cents a skin. Working for wages, they made only one dollar per day, so squirrel hunting was a good alternative. Anyhow, they were out for a long time and had 3,000 squirrel skins. When it was time to head back home, their socks were worn clean through so they each shot a couple of rabbits, put the skins together, fur side out and used those as socks.

Ira: But rabbit skins would not stand up to that kind of abuse long, would they?

Jake: For sure they did not; they had to shoot a couple more rabbits each, every five miles! True story.


bisonYou know, I'm only a dumb rabbit (snowshoe hare, actually) but I often wonder. Some very small animals such as weasels and even squirrels, never mind the ravens, hawks, eagles and owls will kill and eat us rabbits, but there are so many truly huge animals which will never bother us.

For example, I see these mountain-sized bison wander around, eating much the same thing we do, and they barely glance at us.

muledeerAnd these magnificent muledeer with those funny things on their heads; they are a thousand times bigger than we rabbits are but they never, ever, bother us in the slightest.

I wish all other animals were as kind and friendly as these bison and deer are. Apparently humans kill and eat the bison and the deer though.

I would never hurt one of them nor the humans.

I would have thought that humans, being, so they claim, to be the "greatest" species on earth, would have learned to get along as well as, or better than, us rabbits. Guess not. Too bad they cannot learn PEACE from us rabbits.

fisherBut you take one of these fishers, and you got trouble - if you are a rabbit! These are like the weasel mentioned earlier, but far, far larger. This one must have measured a meter in length from the tip of its nose to the end of its tail.

Glad I don't see one of those very often. Trappers love to catch them. Good old Ira!

hind_footWhen one of these killers comes after me, I have to run like my life depended on it. And it does!

In the winter, I have one small advantage; I put on my white fur coat to be harder to see, and the fisher has to keep on his black fur coat, making him easier for me to see.

And in winter, when the snow is deep, the fisher has a hard time getting around. I have one more little trick up my sleeve; my rear feet with the new white fur, become very wide and act like snowshoes as long as the snow is not too fluffy. I guess that is why humans have called us "snowshoe hares."

It was awkward to twist my left foot up to take this picture for you but I managed.


rabbit_tracksSpeaking of snow, you might have seen my tracks in the snow. Rabbit tracks are very unique. No other tracks even come close to looking like our tracks. See what I mean? Note how my huge back feet leave very large impressions in the snow.

You can also see the large gaps between sets of tracks, showing that we can really hop!

trailWe do have one dangerous habit though; we make well-beaten trails. These trails make it easy for some predators to track us down and it also gives humans an easy way to snare us. Some humans do hunt us rabbits and with these trails we are just helping them. I guess we never learn.

See ourt trail leading into the trees? All a human has to do is put a snare into that gap between the trees and we just don't stand a chance.

white rabbit

As mentioned, in winter we put on our white fur coats and shed the brown summer coat.

We do actually keep a bit of black fur at the tips of our white ears. Here is another picture of myself, if you look really carefully, you might be able to see the black.

This is to help us keep track of each other.

bullmoosePreviously, I've shared with you about some of those wonderful huge animals which are so kind as to never bother us rabbits. There are a couple more which deserve an "Honorable Mention" here because we see them all the time and never have the slightest problem with them.

I refer here to the moose and the elk. This young bullmoose has a body (like the bison) as huge as a mountain even though this one happens to have very small "funny things" on his head. I understand that you humans call those funny things "antlers" and that's fine with me.

elkThese two elk walked right past me and never even looked at me; I was almost a bit insulted.

By the way, I suppose you know as well as I do that these deer, moose and elk all drop their antlers every winter. Yes; they grow new ones every spring and these antlers grow extremely fast and have fur ("velvet") on them. Then, in the fall, when the antlers have finished growing, they rub them on trees to scrape off that velvet and the antlers turn brown. The elk which you see here still have the velvet on the antlers but the picture of the moose was taken early in the winter and there is no velvet left on his small antlers.

Often I find these antlers in the bush and I chew on them to get some calcium into my diet. Apparently that's good for my health.


wolfOh, I nearly forgot to mention wolves because I have not seen one in some time. Apparently, since my willowy area is very close to human habitation, wolves are reluctant to come near; they are smart enough to know that humans pose a very great danger to wolves. A friend of mine saw this white one. But when wolves are after us, we don't stand much of a chance there either.

Fortunately for us, people such as Ira love to trap wolves. I wish him great success!

This wolf had a den and there were four pups also. There are black ones and white and other colors of wolves.

These wolves are very large; I've seen some that probably weigh 150 pounds or more.


squirrel

You'd never think that such a cute little critter as a squirrel would hurt a rabbit, would you?

Well, I'm here to tell you that these red squirrels are a bloodthirsty bunch. I have no respect for them and wish that the trappers would catch them all. They are meat-eaters and do not eat only nuts or seeds as you might have been led to believe.

They'll kill and eat baby rabbits anytime they can. And they are bad house-keepers too.

Ira knows all about that; listen to him tell Jake about that.


Back at the cafe:

lice Jake: Taking any squirrels?

Ira: Yeah; took a dozen last week.

Jake: Worth anything?

Ira: Hardly worth bothering with. AND, to make squirrels even less attractive, there's the lice.

Jake: The LICE?

Ira: Yes, squirrels are, typically, covered with lice. Even new-born, hairless baby squirrels in their nest are usually covered with these lice. I actually have to put every squirrel I catch into a plastic bag and give it a good shot of insect spray to kill the lice. I took a picture of some next to a penny; here, look:

Jake: That's awful; I think I'll forget about going trapping!


ticks
I agree with Jake; those are terrible things. Shame on the squirrels. We rabbits would never be so filthy. We like to think of ourselves as cute and cuddly. Just don't cuddle us to the point where we have heart-attacks, please.

If lice are not bad enough; we poor little cuddly rabbits have to put up with ticks as well. Ticks are the most horrible little creatures on this earth, in my opinion.

Here is a picture of my friend "Al" who was unfortunate enough to get some ticks into the fur behind his eyes.

Just thinking about it gives me the heebie jeebies. I think tonight when I get home I'll Google "ticks" and see what I can do to protect myself. Those ticks really TICK ME OFF!

Maybe I'll read up on them and Lyme disease at http://www.health.alberta.ca/health-info/lyme-disease.html.

trailcamshot

You might think that we would be impossible to see.

We try to make it that way but sometimes a human comes along and fools us with a "Trailcam."

Here are two pictures of me, taken by such a camera.

I guess the guy could not see us so he hung the trailcam on a willow in the area where I like to feed at night.

Sure enough, he got me on camera.


As you might expect, sometimes the snow is late coming in the fall and we turn white before the snow is there to hide us. This makes us extra vulnerable to capture by predators. Likewise, in the spring, if the snow goes away late, we might be back to our brown color while the ground is still white with snow. Those also are dangers we rabbits have to contend with.

Back at the cafe:

Ira: Jake, I heard an interesting story about the Easter Bunny recently.

Jake: Well, Jake, you know me, I love a good story about rabbits or anything else; let's hear it.

Ira: Seems this fellow was driving down the road, minding his own business, last easter, when suddenly out from the bushes along the road, out runs the Easter Bunny with his basket full of chocolate easter eggs. The poor man tried to stop but he did not have time and he ran over the bunny. He rushed out and found the bunny stone cold dead, eggs all over the road. He was beside himself with grief as he kneeled down in tears beside the late rabbit. A lady happened to come along and she saw that something was amiss so she parked on the edge of the road, got out and walked over to the distressed man. "What is the matter?" she asked him. The man explained to her that he had accidentally run over the Easter Bunny and killed it and now there could never be another easter. The lady was shocked but told him, "I think I might be able to help; give me a moment" and with that she walked back to her car, reached in, took something out and returned to the poor man. In her hand she had a large aerosol spray can. "Stand back" she told the man and then she sprayed the bunny from head to furry little tail. Then she stood back too. In a few moments, the rabbit got up, picked up his basked, gathered all the chocolate eggs and hopped away down the road. Fifty yards away, he stopped, turned to the man and the lady and waved to them. Then the rabbit hopped another fifty yards further and again stopped, turned and waved to them. He kept this up until he was out of sight. The man was absolutely thrilled and amazed and asked the lady, "What was in that can!?" She handed him the can and he read the label: "Hair Restorer with Permanent Wave."

Jake: OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, that's really BAD!


trailcamshot



We rabbits were very honored when Canada Post issued a postage stamp to honor us.

Thank you, Canada Post! These stamps are from a roll; not from a sheet, so there are no perforations down the left and right sides.

There is no dollar value on them; they can be used forever and will always be worth whatever the cost is to mail a letter.

In case you think that we rabbits are stupid, guess again.

NATURAL JUSTICE, but not the police, has caught up with two men in South Australia who killed a rabbit with high explosive. According to a free magazine distributed to Australian expatriates in London, police are looking for the two who apparently tied a stick of gelignite to the bunny and lit the fuse before setting the terrified animal free. "The trick backfired," the magazine reports, "when the rabbit took cover under their four-wheel drive vehicle. The men escaped but their $20 000 utility was wrecked."

But then again, if carrots are so good for the eyes, how come we see so many dead rabbits on the highway?


rabbit eating



I mentioned earlier how sometimes humans leave the tops of trees for us rabbits to eat.

Well, sometimes they go even further and put out some kitchen scraps such as cucumber peel, apple peel, carrot and so on.

Here you see one of my friends eating his "kitchen-scrap-breakfast" only a few feet from the front door of their house.


rabbit side view

Typically, when one of you humans sees one of us rabbits, you see our side view, like this.

While, I think we look very nice that way, there might be other views of us that make us look very nice as well.

See below.


rabbit back view

For example, this shows my back with the beautiful dark line down the center of my back.

Don't you agree that I am simply gorgeous?

All the lady rabbits seem to think so too.

No, I'm not conceited.


rabbit front view

No such dark line down our front side.

As you no doubt suspected, this shows me early in the springtime when I am still wearing a bit of my white winter coat.

Soon after this picture was taken all that white fur was replaced by my summer, brown coat.


rabbit running

As you know, rabbits hop when they move.

We also fly like birds.

See me flying here? All four feet are off the ground!

And I'm flying straight toward YOU to give you a big Bunny Hug!

But I'm kidding, of course, about me being able to fly.


Back at the cafe:

Jake: Well, Ira, since you have shared a rabbit story with me, I'll reciprocate. This is what a friend of mine told me. He is in Tech Support for a computer company. Here is his story.

- The PowerBook That Leaked - (a true story) In 1993, sometime in December, a customer walks in with a dead PowerBook 165. Fault description: hangs on startup. An additional symptom provided was: whilst being carried from the customer's site to our service center, a 'sloshing' noise was heard within the machine. "Has anything been spilt on this computer?" I inquired, but no, nothing of the sort had happened, protested the client vehemently. Taking this with a grain of salt (no-one's going to admit doing something that totally invalidates their warranty and effectively wrecks their computer) I went about filling in the repair order. Back on the bench, I started the PowerBook up. Sure enough, an address error on startup, just after 'Welcome to Macintosh'. I lowered my ear to the keyboard, at which point I heard a crackling noise (couldn't hear any sloshing noise though) and became aware of a rather 'sharp' odor which seemed to emanate from the inside of the machine. Flicking the computer off and unplugging the adapter, I removed the battery from it's compartment, only to observe that the entire battery casing was soaked in a fluid which appear to have a rainbow-like sheen (kind of like what a puddle of soapy water would look like - oily and colorful). I also noticed that the same fluid was leaking out of the battery compartment onto the static mat, but appeared clear rather than multi-colored. My first thoughts were that the battery had somehow leaked acid out into the guts of the PowerBook, which would account for the sharp smell (which reminded me of ammonia), yet the battery terminals were about the one part of the battery that was dry. No, upon closer examination, I ruled the acid theory out. The battery was wet, but not leaking. Tipping the machine on it's side, I watched more fluid run out and coagulate on the bench in a puddle about the size of a compact disc. It was definitely clear, and I observed that the 'rainbow' effect had been caused by the reaction of the plastic battery casing to this 'mystery liquid'. I then unscrewed the computer and separated the two parts of the PowerBook. The smell suddenly became a LOT stronger. The hard disk looked like a solid lump of rust, and the daughterboard appeared to have about three barbecued chips. Although I was quickly forming my own opinions on what had happened, I invited several of my workmates in to take a sniff and offer an opinion. We were unanimous in our decision. I rang the customer, who seemed surprised when I asked the question: "Do you have a cat?" As it turned out, he didn't have a cat, but he *did* have a lovely fluffy bunny rabbit who was seen in the vicinity of the PowerBook only the day before. Yes, there was no doubt about it, little fluffy had hopped up onto the keyboard and downloaded some incompatible data. I checked the warranty form, but there was no provision for failure due to rabbit urine anywhere. I advised the customer to get in touch with his insurance company. In the end, the PowerBook was biffed and the customer upgraded to a 180c. I cleaned up the static mat and sprayed the service department with a healthy dosage of "Fresh Field of Flowers". I checked in with the customer about a week later, asked how was he enjoying the 180c, asked if he'd managed to restore his data, and, of course, asked how was his rabbit? "Delicious." he said.


Well, I've enjoyed our little visit, I hope you have too. I wish you and also Jake and Ira, all the best and PEACE.

And, in parting, here is one final picture of myself, enjoying some delicious grass:

rabbit running

Oh, it seems that Co-op Senators Jake and Ira are still at it in the cafe, so let's see what they are up to now:

Back at the cafe:

Ira: Jake, I just have to share this final rabbit story with you.

This guy comes home from work one day to find his dog with the neighbor's pet rabbit in his mouth. The rabbit is dead and the guy panics. He thinks the neighbors are going to hate him forever, so he takes the dirty, chewed up rabbit into the house and gives it a bath, blow dries its fur and puts the rabbit back into the cage at the neighbor's house, hoping they will think it died of natural causes. A few days later, the neighbor is outside and asks the guy, "Did you hear that Fluffy died?". The guy stumbles around and says, "Um.. no.. um.. what happened?". The neighbor replies, "We just found him dead in his cage one day, but the weird thing is that the day after we buried him we went outside and someone had dug him up, gave him a bath and put him back into the cage. There must be some real sick people out there!"




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