Friday, May 13, 2011

Rabbits on the West side - the final chapter

Amidst wedding planning, our house was for sale in spring 2010, and Jay and I did quite a lot of spring yard work. This mostly involved splitting hostas and moving lots, and lots, and lots of mulch. Either the hostas came up fast and the rabbits didn't have a chance to eat them, or our constant yard activity kept them away, but either way, I don't recall being frustrated with gnawed off hosta shoots.

This year, however, something came together that attracted every floppy-eared rabbit in the neighborhood to our yard for a nightly buffet at our hosta salad bowl. I went out on one of the first spring afternoons to discover where torpedo shoots had been, now hosta stumps with nothing but a ground-level stalk of concentric circles remained.

I. was. furious.

Memories of my trip to Farm and Fleet, the rat traps and my successful varmnit termination program entered my mind. Jay was inside, probably getting hungry for dinner, but I had rabbits to rid. I found the box where we had stored the traps from my move, quickly found five stakes and went into the back yard. One of my neighbors told me that the rabbits were living under our deck, and indeed, there were several holes in the lattice where a rabbit could easily squeeze through. I planted a stake and set an trap at each hole, and put two in one of the favored hosta beds.

Because I wasn't particularly interested in repeating my earlier burial practice, I also sprayed the incredibly smelly "Liquid Fence" under the deck and on the hostas. I figured if the rabbits were stupid enough to ignore that, they practically deserved to fall upon the the springs of my unbaited traps.

I returned to the kitchen where Jay, eyeing me up and down (dirty knees, screw gun in one hand and a sheepish look), asked me what I had been up to. "You don't want to know, so best not to ask," I replied. "Does it have anything to do with rabbits?" he inquired. "Ignorance is bliss," I replied. "If the neighbors ask, it's best you honestly don't know a thing." He quickly figured out what I had done, grimacing, I imagine, at his own memory of my creature killing spree from a few years ago.

I checked the traps over the course of several days. One day, one of the unsprung traps had clearly been pushed (or pulled?) out from under the deck. Another day, the same thing occurred at the site of another trap. These rabbits were smarter than me. They also continued to eat hostas like their personal garden of organic mixed greens.

While walking in the back yard one evening around dusk, I saw three fat rabbits just about to crawl through a fairly large opening in the corner of our fence. In hindsight, perhaps all of this could have been prevented with some fence mending? I pulled up all the stakes and set the traps at the opening.

Five rat traps set at the corner opening in our fence.

These were large rabbits, and my plan was to catch a rabbit (head, foot or tail) in one or more traps, and then go out there and finish the job myself. For this to succeed (success measured by very short suffering time and neighbors none the wiser) I had to keep an eye on the traps pretty consistently. This was not something to be left overnight.

I set out a pair of leather gloves (with neck wringing in mind) and went into the house to prepare dinner. Every 15 minutes I stepped out to check the traps. The first time I frightened the three rabbits again, they had been gathering at the opening, probably surveying the new landscape.

The second, third and fourth times there were no bunnies to be seen, either outside the fence or in my traps. By 8:30 p.m. Jay and I had finished dinner and I went out for the last time. In my heart I could not leave the traps set for an animal to happen upon and suffer through the night. I may have been raised with a practical country attitude about such things, but I was also raised to be kind to animals - and avoiding needless suffering was part of that upbringing. So I pulled up all the stakes and threw them in a pile in the garage. And then I sprayed the corner opening, all the hostas and all around the perimeter of the yard with Liquid Fence.

Now that the hostas are up, they don't seem to be as tender or tasty to the rabbits, or maybe I'm just not noticing the nibble among the leafy proliferation. I know the rabbits are still around, and I know that they are breeding like, well, rabbits. So they still have to go, but these traps are no match for adult rabbits.

My friend Tom is going to lend me a live trap. I may or may not write about it.