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    Our backyard bunny is settling in on a diet of grass, border grass and dollar weed. PAT FOSTER-TURLEY/NEWS-LEADER

The bunny is back

As regular readers know, Bucko and I have spent the last few spring gardening seasons obsessed with rabbits. These wild critters enjoy bean and pea sprouts as much as anyone, and, when around, they get into our vegetable garden and help themselves to newly sprouted plants, eating the sprouts from an entire pack of seeds in one evening.

We’ve tried various measures, year by year, to avoid this problem. We’ve live-trapped and relocated them, but it seems like there is always another waiting around to take its place. We’ve spread pellets that supposedly repel them. I’ve even tried human hair – my own, after a haircut –when someone recommended that. None of these repellents worked. We tried to surround our garden with mesh “rabbit-proof” fencing, but our small rabbits walked right through it. We even hired someone to build a wooden fence protecting the veggie garden, but rabbits dug right under it. “Wascally Wabbit!” as Elmer Fudd used to say back in the cartoons of long ago.

This year, though, we finally came up with something that works. Bucko installed elevated garden beds for me, where I can play with my plants waist-high, beyond the jumping abilities of any rabbit other than Bugs Bunny, but he doesn’t live here anyway. So this year, with my bean plants safely producing beans for the first time, we have stopped being on red alert every time we see a rabbit in our backyard.

Now, with our change of heart, we have come to enjoy the resident bunny that showed up this year. Our cat, Dumela, enjoys it too. In the mornings when I am drinking my coffee, she and I watch the birds and squirrels at the bird feeder, and now are also entertained by the rabbit that joins them to munch on the nearby grass. There’s plenty of grass for it, and Bucko, the lawn mower in our family, does not begrudge the rabbit this food source. I’ve also watched the rabbit eat border grass and dollar weed, also not a problem.

Mornings seem to be an active time for our bunny. Sometimes the rabbit will get a “wild hair” and hop quickly across the lawn and back again. Just for the fun of it, I guess? With nothing disturbing it, I can’t imagine why else. At any rate, Dumela loves watching this activity and I must admit, so do I.

Bucko and I have gotten to know the habits of our rabbit. It has its home in a cluster of sword ferns around a bottlebrush tree. These invasive ferns are confined to a small area hemmed in by concrete and cannot spread, so they don’t bother us where they are and we’ve let them grow. When I make flower arrangements with my zinnias I know I always have a source of greenery to plump up my bouquets. This thick stand of ferns hiding its burrow is a perfect spot for our resident bunny. In the evenings now, we sometimes see the rabbit catching the last rays of the sun in front of its lair.

We have gotten very tolerant of the rabbit now, and this favor has been returned. Now we can walk close to it without it hopping off. Instead of running, often it just stands stock still when we walk by, hoping maybe that we don’t see it. I’ve gotten so close to it to take photos that, even without a long lens, I have photos of a tick in its ear.

Apparently there are no coyotes roaming in our backyard, although they have often been seen near our development. Coyotes are a major predator of rabbits, a fact very evident by the coyote scat I’ve noticed in the Greenway that is full of rabbit fur. But for now, at least, the rabbit seems safe in our backyard — safe from coyotes and safe from eviction.

I’ve even broken a vow not to feed wild animals. I’ve set out carrots, which the rabbit does not eat, but now I’m thinking of lettuce and other rabbit food next. Hey, now that it’s my friend, maybe I’ll plant some rows of beans just for it!

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