Monday, December 12, 2011

Rabbits: the good and the bad

There's something about the long velvety ears of rabbits and the softness of their fur that make them quite irresistible. Yet, in the Australian environment rabbits are a serious pest, and on Phillip Island they're in plague numbers.

While we were living in Mitchell, in outback Queensland, wild rabbits had a lovely time living in our garden. There was nothing to disturb their peace. However, as soon as we let our two German shepherds out of the ute -- on our return to Phillip Island -- rabbits scampered in all directions, with the dogs in hot pursuit.

Here on the island, rabbits tend to live under bushes and buildings rather than dig burrows. Rainfall on the island has been plentiful throughout 2011, resulting in lush green grass and masses of tender shoots on bushes and trees. All this adds up to a rabbit paradise, especially since the Phillip Island Nature Park is serious about fox eradication -- the penguins and rabbits main predator.

Our two dogs have never caught a rabbit, therefore I believe that the rabbits living in our yard are relatively safe. Chasing rabbits is a sport, as far as our dogs are concerned; and from our point of view, rabbit chasing keeps our dogs well exercised. A family of rabbits live underneath an old caravan in our backyard. Major squeals in frustration after chasing a rabbit from the grass to beneath the caravan. He and Del sniff and snort with their noses only centimetres from the rabbits.

As I love all animals, including rabbits, I enjoy seeing them living in and around our garden, and I enjoy watching their interactions. Kitten rabbits are adorable and remind me of a pet rabbit I kept about 15 years ago. She was an English Butterfly rabbit and I called her Blackberry. She was large, and had soft white fur with a black butterfly marking on her face, and black ears.

Blackberry lived inside the house as one of the family, and I trained her to a litter tray. We had Irish setters at the time and she became close friends with them. She was one of the most lovable animal friends I've ever had -- placid, playful and affectionate. The only problem I had with Blackberry was that she chewed electrical cords and furniture. I solved this problem by covering some of the cords and providing pieces of bark covered wood for her to gnaw on.

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