The first day of summer brought death to our patch. Casually looking out the window in the morning, I spotted a small rabbit, mortally wounded. He was just a few feet from where he had been born a few weeks ago. (Here’s a video from last year outside the same delivery room.) A big loop of intestine now draped down his otherwise beautiful flank. It glittered red in the sun, looking almost artificial.
I’m not ashamed to say this brought not a small amount of grief to my fellow amateur naturalist and me. We’ve been feeding this litter of rabbits, and the one before, and the extended family. We chop carrots then close the front door, which is like ringing a dinner bell. (Later we educated ourselves about how that probably wasn’t a good idea, as carrots are too sweet. That said, how do wild rabbits forbear when confronted with a garden? Willpower?)
I know they’re wild animals, often considered pests. All I can say is they’re not pests to us. They’re the closest we’ll ever get to having a pet, with the advantage that they remain free range.
Bunny did not appear to know he was not long for this world. He wasn’t in distress. When he wasn’t resting in the shade, he softly hopped around the yard following whatever impulses that had always moved him. At times he was joined by others of his creche. They seemed not to notice the terrible thing that had happened. I’m guessing there is no evolutionary advantage to forming a support group.
We figured stoat or cat. Whatever had left him for undead didn’t really matter. It hurt to watch him. It hurt to have helped him grow, then bear witness to the end of all growing.
He briefly visited the hole from which he’d first emerged and we’d seen him, with all his brothers and sisters, waiting to be fed by his mother. The mob scene had been hysterical – bunnies rolling on their back to claim a teat, oh so hungry, lucky rabbits feet kicking at the air.
Rabbits die all the time, unwitnessed, all around. Of bloody course they do; nature red in tooth and claw. We try to do our part not to contribute to the suffering in the world. To that end, we discussed euthanasia.
We couldn’t do it. I don’t think I could have caught him, never mind the wild distress he would have suffered in the attempt. Even if I had, I don’t have it in me. We finally decided that if it had been a bonafide pet, it would be our responsibility to do something, but that this poor little bunny was outside our field of influence.
Imagine a world where you don’t feel guilty about not being able to kill.
Mourning passed into afternoon. At some point we saw him; then we saw him no more. He had a life. We shall miss that little life.