These two images (one of unknown rabbits; one of Pippa) represent the way I like to see bunnies: Content, bright-eyed, alive…
Today’s Jumble walk was like following in the path of a mysterious massacre – and a sad contrast to yesterday’s sunny, if malodorous, trek.
Rain was spitting as we reached Velvet Bottom’s smaller sibling, Blackmoor Reserve. Almost immediately, we came upon part of a small furry corpse. Jumble sniffed it, but did not – as he often does – see it as Canine Take-Away food. To be frank, I thought nothing of it, other than the brief pang I always feel, because raptor-ripped rabbits are an inevitable part of life in the country.
But, as we walked on, and the number of little dusty brown bodies grew in number – some plumptious and only-recently dead, if I am any judge; none touched by Jumbs – I began to feel a sense of uneasiness. In all the years I have been walking this path, I have never come across death that widespread; I have never seen more than one, or perhaps two, ragged remains of the Warren’s residents.
Other people I met along the way had also noticed this drizzle- damp hecatomb – and we commented, one to another, on the strangeness of it all.
I do not know what happened. It may be that the dreaded Myxomatosis has broken out, as it does from time to time, in the vicinity (though the rabbit population of Velvet Bottom, which is only yards away, was not lying in heaps on the trail yesterday); it may be that a particularly vicious and speedy predator has been doing the animal version of serial killing in the dark of night; it could be airborne attack by starving hawks or kestrels.
I did feel sad, however, as I walked past bunny after bunny, all dead. I know death is a part of life; I know nature is notoriously red in tooth and claw; I know that wild rabbits do not, typically, live to a ripe old age – but, since getting Pippa, I have seen the gentle charm of these creatures, the way they drum their back legs when scared or in danger, their helplessness when faced with more vicious animals.
I just hope this was an anomaly, a one-off. I just hope that some ghastly disease is not going to decimate what has, until today, been a thriving – and lovely to watch – colony of wild rabbits.