It’s a sight I’ve grown accustomed to seeing this spring and summer: rabbits jumping out of the landscape berms when a car passes, rabbits nibbling on dewy grass, rabbits running round and round in the yard.
Wesselman Nature Society executive director John Scott Foster confirms my suspicions: “A mild winter and a lush spring/summer has created the perfect storm for rabbits. Not a lot of mortality over the winter and lots to eat over the spring and summer mean lots of babies are born and survive.”
How many is lots? I read up on rabbits. Starting in spring, a rabbit can have a litter of up to a dozen kits about every month. Females mate again, often within hours of giving birth. With offspring mating the same summer they’re born, and in turn producing eight to 12 babies a month, it’s easy to get in the weeds with rabbits. I don’t have a vegetable garden, but if I did, I likely wouldn’t have much of one.
Experts say there is normally a gap between when prey populations increase and predator population follow. The East Side of Evansville is home to plenty of wildlife thanks to the close proximity to the nation’s largest urban hardwood forest, Wesselman Woods. It stands to reason we may see more urban foxes and raptors next year. My friend Laurie and I did see a red fox proudly showing us his meal — white rabbit feet hanging from his mouth — on a morning walk recently.
Rabbit is the fourth animal in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, but 2016 is the year of the monkey. Rabbit ruled in 2011 and again will in 2023. In Chinese culture, the rabbit is a tame creature representing hope; rabbits are tender and lovely.
Fewer than one in 100 rabbits live three years. While they look cute and cuddly, pest control experts say homeowners should try to rid their yards of wild rabbits; they do carry diseases, including plague.