Just a brief nature note today. Back in 2015, in a post on genes, I mentioned the serendipity of noticing a wild black rabbit out of my study window as I was writing it.
To be honest, it wasn’t my first such sighting locally, as a few years before I saw a similar one on a couple of occasions at the other end of the ridge on which we live, maybe half a mile away. A quick internet search shows that they do occur from time to time, there most notably being a longstanding population of them on Dartmoor, the wild national park at the other end of Devon. But they’re unusual, to say the least, in this melanotic form.
Well, a couple of weeks ago we spotted a young one not only on our spread, but evidently living under my workshop. Here it is :
It appears to be the only blackie in a litter of ordinary bunnies (though we may possible have spotted a second, yet to be confirmed). We made jokes about how it would be bad form to shoot him when the food shortages really kick in, and hoped we might get a domestic population of melanotic rabbits to boast about.
Yesterday, on the way to feed the chickens, I had a close encounter with Sooty. The hens are currently in their summer quarters, which I reach through the gate to their winter enclosure. I noticed a small black shape lying doggo by the fence, and as I approached the bunny bolted to the open gate and under the workshop. I suspected he’d slipped in through a gap and been unable to find his way out.
Sadly, later in the day when I went to shut the hens in, there on the path lay Sooty, dead and stiff. Did he die of the shock of meeting me? Had he become dehydrated during his stay in the chicken run? Or did he die of something else (not myxomatosis. on which I am a slight authority having worked in a pest control laboratory once). The last possibility is increased, I think, by Charlie the labrador finding a conventionally-coloured dead bunny of similar size in our lane the day before. Does any reader know what young rabbits die from when they’re not being predated? Anyway I laid Sooty to rest in the wild bluebell wood on the other side of our Devon bank boundary. It wouldn’t do for Charlie to come across him – he’s black too and might become distressed.
It being Holy Week there seems almost to be a theological lesson in the Easter Rabbit which bucked the norm, paid by its death, and was disposed of “outside the city.” Jesus, of course, was the ultimate black sheep, or black rabbit, because he was pure light. You get the idea, if you read yesterday’s post.