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The Heart of Nashua with Joan Stylianos -- Mother Nature's treat: Bunnies in the backyard

By JOAN STYLIANOS
August 29. 2018 11:02PM




In my backyard I’ve seen waddling woodchucks, a trio of foreboding fishers, a plump skunk in the mid-morning, Cooper’s hawks, a colony of angry bumblebees, and an alleged rabid raccoon. Each time I shuddered with fear.

Finally, though, Mother Nature has brought something delicate, soft and cute to my little corner of the world, and I could watch it for hours.

I have a fascination with rabbits, and it began long ago in childhood.

My Aunt Katie worked for the former Fanny Farmer’s store on Main Street. She would always give us enormous solid chocolate bunnies at Eastertime. I would start biting the ear off and go from there, usually ending up with a bellyache from cocoa overload.

I was fascinated by Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland.” I imagined myself falling down the rabbit hole like young Alice: “Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end?”

I once “stole” the Calderwood’s large white bunny named Snowball from its outdoor hutch behind their big yellow garage and placed her in my baby carriage, parading her around the neighborhood as one of my own. Mr. Calderwood (Donald) was the former president of Pennichuck Water Works, and he and Mrs. Calderwood (Florence) kindly allowed area kids to gather and play on their spacious lawn barely a block from my home.

My next-door neighbors, the Binghams, had a large and fun family with a pet rabbit or two on their porch. When my mother learned about the substantial pellet presents rabbits leave behind, there was no way I was ever going to get a bunny of my own for Christmas.

But today, I have at least one enchanting New England cottontail bouncing around my backyard and nibbling on herbaceous goodies like my carpet of crabgrass, clover, flowers, leaves and other flora.

Several of my friends have these visitors, too.

I know for sure it’s a New England cottontail because I did some research; the cute white, bobbing tail gives it away. The fur of the rabbit stays brownish-gray all year round and features a pelt flecked with black. Maybe you have one visiting your yard that comes out quietly during dawn and dusk to graze for food. If not, maybe you haven’t been looking hard enough. It seems like these cuties are hopping about the Gate City area in large numbers now. And trust me, these rabbits are so adorable, I wouldn’t mind if they multiplied and suddenly, 20 appeared on my property.

For a while, the New England cottontail was becoming outnumbered. From 2008 until 2015 in New Hampshire alone, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service classified them as a candidate for the endangered species list, which means these beautiful creatures were protected by law. I learned that at the website NewEnglandCottontail.org.

Maybe this is why almost three years later, these small rabbits seem to have rebounded.

“In September 2015, the Service removed the cottontail as a candidate species, determining that, as a result of conservation actions, the species no longer meets the definition of threatened or endangered,” according to the website.

The Southern New Hampshire area’s rabbit initiative was recognized as an “incredible model of conservation” for the country, said former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

Hippity-hop and hats off to the biologists and others whose hard work trying to keep the New England cottontail leaping about within proper, plentiful habitats that include young forests and shrubland.

If you’re on the lookout, these bouncing bunnies are small, making them irresistible. According to statistics, the New England cottontail is featherlight, weighing in at only about 2 pounds.

Ms. Stylianos is a Nashua native. Her column is published weekly. She can be reached at jtania512@gmail.com.


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