IT WAS A SUNNY Sunday afternoon, the neighborhood was quiet, and the Patriots were playing. It would seem that “all’s right with the world,” to quote the famous poet Robert Browning.
The time was about 1:15, and I decided to head out my back steps to bring the blue garbage bin to the corner for Monday’s trash pick-up.
Then, I saw something I wish I could have unseen, but it was right there by my bulkhead, about six inches away from my steps.
My heart sank. There it lay motionless on the ground, obviously dead, a beautiful cottontail rabbit eviscerated by what I believe was a Cooper’s Hawk.
I felt sick to my stomach but also realized I had to dispose of it. No one was around to help. This was my problem.
I found a sizable, sturdy box I had in the basement that came with a new pair of boots. I brought it outside along with some newspaper and grabbed a snow shovel and gloves from my garage. I was reluctant to proceed, but I really had no choice.
I shoveled the poor animal’s body and tail into the box and covered it with newspaper and then sealed the container. I dropped it into my garbage bin, hoping I wasn’t breaking the law.
The Gate City has seen a resurgence in the cottontail population, and it’s not uncommon to see the rabbits delicately hopping around neighborhoods.
I believe the attack came from a bird of prey. A few years ago, Jesse Frazer, manager of Critter Control NH, was on my property for another issue when he noticed a largish bird fly by.
“Cool, that was a Cooper’s Hawk,” he said.
Come to find out, these birds are common to the Nashua area as year-round residents and often target small mammals like rabbits.
“The carcass is usually left whole, and you will find tufts of fur or pieces of skin and fur scattered around the carcass. Hawks do not like to eat fur, skin, or bones,” according to the wildlife experts at the University of Illinois Extension.
Hopefully, finding an unsettling sight like this will never happen to you, but if it does, you have a few choices for disposal.
I spoke to a member of the NH Fish & Game Department and was told that I could take the dead animal to the woods, and leave it there for other animals to eat. If it were a big-game animal, the department could come and remove it.
I could also bury it in my yard or dispose of it in the garbage bin to be hauled away by trash collection to the city landfill.
I checked with Nashua’s Solid Waste Department and was told that I did not break any laws and that I had followed a proper disposal procedure.
I think the lesson here is simple:
All animals, predator and prey, need food to live. Some call it “the balance of nature.”