Mom thought our snowman looked cold without a hat. She disappeared into the house and came back out with the cowboy hat I had worn on Halloween night. “There, the finishing touch!” The sun was getting low. Soon it would be dark. Mom sent me inside to clean up and get ready for dinner. While taking off my snowy clothes I could see her out there wandering around the yard, looking down at the snow.
Typical Bounding Pattern of the Eastern Cottontail Rabbit
After dinner, she took a book off her shelf and we sat down together on my bed, flipping through the pages. The book was full of photographs of wild animals. There was more too. Photographs and drawings of footprints referred to as “tracks”, diagrams of these tracks in patterns with measurements, chewed up nut shells, sliced and frayed ends of sticks, and close-up pictures of poop!, oops, I mean, “scat”!!
Then I saw them, “Mom, these are the little pebbles that McGuffin was eating!”
They were scat alright! Mom read that “lagomorphs”, a fancy name for the Rabbit Family, digest their food twice. They poop out a jelly-like pellet, eat it, then poop it out again, this time, harder and drier. It’s this second poop, “scratch that!”, scat, that we found in the snow.
“So, it was a rabbit out there in the snow!”
Mom exclaims, “An Eastern Cottontail Rabbit” to be precise!”
We looked at all the pictures about the Cottontail. We discovered that the marks in our yard heading out through the fence had exactly the same pattern as the tracks in the pictures. We also discovered that when this rabbit eats twigs it always cuts the twigs off on a clean angle, just like the cut mom makes on flower stems before she puts them in a vase. If the stem is thick, instead of cutting, the rabbit gnaws off the bark.
“What about the orange snow?”
“It says here that orange is the colour of rabbit pee!”
Lagomorph scat and urine
That whole winter the Cottontail left signs of its visits in our yard. He, or she, came in and out the same way so many times that I couldn’t see the pattern of its feet, only a long, deep trough in the snow. But the footprints were all over the place, even on our deck right outside our door! Sometimes, when we turned the outdoor light on we would see the rabbit just sitting there. This would drive McGuffin crazy! Even when the rabbit wasn’t there, McGuffin knew it had been by its smell! And we knew that when McGuffin charged out of the house, barking, all crazy-like, that rabbit was on the run!
The snow kept getting higher and higher. Mom wasn’t pleased to discover “that darn rabbit” was eating her shrubs. Even the small maple tree out front, with the snow so high, had branches sliced off and lain about in the snow. Mom hoped that if I threw out our carrot peelings the rabbit would leave the woody plants alone. I think she also felt bad for Rabbit, with this winter being so cold.
Rabbit sure liked the carrot! And the maple tree! Together they make a really nice meal!