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What’s so cute about those little cottontails?

July 13, 2012
By Karen Wils , Daily Press

ESCANABA - Everybody remembers the story of what happened in Mr. McGregor's garden.

Who can forget Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter Rabbit?

Beatrix Potter's children's story is a classic and it's a tale come true!

Article Photos

Karen Wils photo

Maybe this cottontail heard about the good eating at Mr. McGregor’s cabbage patch.

Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter are everywhere, not just out in the country meadow or on Mr. McGregor's farm.

They are in town, city dwellers, thriving in downtown Escanaba and Gladstone. The eastern cottontail - once very rare in the wild woods of the U.P. - has adapted well to grassy backyards and lush green gardens.

Before the days of the white settlers, when white pines, hardwoods and wilderness covered the Upper Peninsula, the snowshoe hare was the king bunny around here. But with the pioneers came the lilac bushes, apple trees, kitchen gardens and lettuce, lawns and many wonderful things for rabbits to eat. The eastern cottontail rabbit slowly expanded its territory north.

There is nothing as cute as a little cottontail. Smaller than the horsey-looking snowshoe hare, with a rounder, more delicate head and flashy white behind, one can almost imagine them wearing the shoes and jacket of Peter Rabbit.

Nests of newborn bunnies are often found by a surprised homeowner right in a little depression in the lawn or below the hedge.

As cute as buttons, but with an appetite for flowers, bean spouts, carrots and cabbage, cottontails can easily overstay their welcome.

These rabbits are at an all-time high within the city and suburbs of Delta County. One of the reasons why is because house cats do not roam anymore. A few decades ago - before streets got so busy - pet cats had free run of the neighborhood. Cats are very good mousers and also skilled rabbit hunters, too, sometimes going as far as to proudly line up their trophy long-ears by the back door.

Dogs and cats have been replaced by foxes, coyotes, hawks and owls coming into town, especially at night, to dine on some garden-fattened cottontails.

It is really amazing how many rabbits can be seen in an early-morning walk around town. As a walker of beagles, I know just how prolific they can be.

I can envision them all wearing pantaloons, bow ties and sun bonnets like the characters in Potter's books.

Some people spread dog hair or bottled fox urine to deter the bunnies from the gardens, but a fence is the only sure way to keep them out.

"Stop thief" Mr. McGregor call him, but a cute one, he sure is. Maybe after our long U.P. winters, we all are just a little too eager to taste green and growing things.

Relax on your front porch or deck in the backyard and enjoy a cup of camomile tea and see if any long-ears join you.


Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.



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