I’ve only just now noticed — where have all the rabbits gone?
I spent this Memorial Day weekend wandering around the Philadelphia area, thinking deep thoughts and making a few key decisions on where I want to go from this point in my life. Much of that was done while walking in the woods, in fields, along the rivers and creeks of the area. I saw a lot of wildlife. What I didn’t see was the usual spring glut of fuzzy, brown bunny rabbits feeding on new grass and clover.
I passed massive numbers of whitetail deer, including two absolutely adorable, wobbly-legged spotted fawns trailing behind their mother as she fed her way across a meadow of mixed grasses and other greens. They kept getting distracted by everything they saw, stopping and staring wide-eyed at everything in their path, then skittering quickly to mother when they realized she’d gotten farther than 6 feet away. And I was impressed by a buck at the Wildlife Sanctuary — his antlers, covered in soft velvet, had already grown taller than his rather large ears, promising to be a spectacular set of antlers by autumn.
Every lawn I passed, including tiny patches of grass along the highway, sported its own groundhog. I watched red-tail and Cooper’s hawks circle in the sky, while every tree, bush and spike of tall grass had a red-winged blackbird, variety of sparrow or cardinal perched in or on it. I heard owls hooting and woodpeckers tapping deeper in the trees. At night, I held my nose while skunks wandered around my apartment complex — I have to admit, they are cute, as long as you don’t need to breath. And last night, as I stopped at the local library to return my books, I came face to face with a pair of red foxes. The smaller one sat down, demurely tucking its tail over its paws, while the taller one stood nearby, watching me as I walked back to my car and then drove away.
There are enough squirrels running around to populate an entire city. Enough said about the rats with furry tails.
Then, this morning, I once more carried a box turtle across the road by the Sanctuary. I’ve had to do that at least two dozen times every year for the past five years. I’m not sure if the Sanctuary has a lot of turtles — there are many small streams and large ponds dotting the landscape — or if this is the same turtle every time, hitchhiking to its destination. Either way, I simply can’t leave it (him? her?) in the middle of the road to be run over.
And as I placed the turtle in the grass on the other side of the road, it suddenly hit me.
There are no rabbits.
Three years ago, I couldn’t keep the fit-in-the-palm-of-my-hand baby bunnies out of the garden at work. I had to drive slowly along every road, because there was always a rabbit charging blindly out of the weeds into traffic. I could walk the Pawlings Road trail along the river in Valley Forge Park and see a dozen or more in a quarter-mile stretch of pathway.
And now, there are no rabbits. None. I can’t honestly recall the last time I saw a furry bunny bounding along the road, ignoring me while I cursed them and yanked my car into the other lane to avoid hitting the silly rabbit.
Is it my imagination or are the rabbits now — endangered? We have a good supply of foxes and hawks, both of which seem to have adapted well to suburban life and probably relish a good meal of bunny rabbit. Have they been run over by so many cars that the population has dwindled? Or is there something else going on?
I never thought I would say I mis the rabbits — but I do. I really do. Silly rabbits — come back!