Notcho the Cottontail

August 29, 2013

I shared the story of Notcho the Cottontail on my Facebook page last spring but I never got around to telling the story here on Nature Frames. If you’ve already heard the story about this mama bunny, I’ve posted some new images for you to enjoy.

It all began last May when I decided to brush hog about a half-acre near our house so we could get a better look at the spring wildflowers on our prairie. Typically, I refrain from any mowing in the spring to avoid disturbing ground nesting birds and rabbits. I decided to make an exception and sheared the field from waist-high to ground level.

Late that afternoon I noticed a cottontail in the freshly mowed grass and I grabbed my camera and approached it to get a photo in the soft light. I wasn’t surprised when the rabbit stayed put, even after I closed the distance between us to a few feet, because the rabbits around our yard are quite used to our daily activities. But as I took a closer look, I thought the bunny might be injured as it continued to hold fast to its location.

Next, I took my chances that the bunny wasn’t a relative of the “Killer Rabbit of Caerbannogone” and I crawled up to it and reached my hand out to give it a pat on the bottom to move it along. Undaunted by my advances, the rabbit began to lean away from me just enough to expose four babies attached to its teats. I quickly realized that I had mowed right over the rabbit’s nest, which was situated between the two tracks of my tractor tires. I hadn’t injured the babies but I had left them exposed to the elements in very short grass. “Rut-roh,” I thought, “this is going to be a problem.”

DJB_FRM_2013_0538

I quickly retreated to my side porch and watched the mama rabbit with my binoculars. I noticed she had a notch in her right ear so I referred to her as “Notcho” when I told the unfortunate story to Joyce. I suppose “Notcha” would have been more gender appropriate, but the name stuck. As we watched the poor bunny sitting on her babies in the mowed grass, a cold front came through with a hard rain. We went inside but I kept going to the window to check on Notcho. Late that evening, I took one last look with a flashlight before I went to bed and I saw her sitting on the babies in the cold rain, her fur completely soaked.

I couldn’t help but to think of the mama rabbit and her young as it rained all night and by first light I was up and out the door to investigate. The first thing I saw was Notcho in our driveway, grooming her wet fur. I knew I needed to take a look at the baby rabbits but I wasn’t too optimistic about what I would find. I slowly walked out into the field of cropped grass, courtesy of yours truly, and found the four babies completely separated and lying in standing water in the muddy field. Their fur was soaked through to their thin skin and they were shivering non-stop. I gathered them up and started to put them back down but I couldn’t bring myself to plop them back into the cold mud hole. The time had come for intervention and mitigation.

I brought Joyce out to the site and explained the situation as Notcho sat on her haunches in the driveway, still grooming. Joyce headed back to the house and returned with a basket and a plan. We would take the bunnies inside and warm them up with a hair dryer and then build them a new nest, with the addition of a roof, in the same spot. It would be up to Notcho to return to the site and care for her young.

It didn’t take long to warm up the shivering bunnies with the hair dryer, set on low of course, and they looked much better as their fur became dry and thick once again. They were the cutest little things with their ears still flat against their necks. The next step was to build a nest. I started with dry straw over the mud puddle where I found the little ones and then built walls of landscaping stone. Next, I added a plywood roof with a few stones on top to keep it from flying away in a storm. After the rabbit den was completed, we put the four bunnies in the new nest, all cozy and warm, and headed back to the house to let Nature take its post-intervention course.

I watched the nest throughout the day as I did chores around the farm but there was no sign of Notcho. By late-afternoon I was getting anxious and took a quick look at the nestlings. Three were cuddled together in the nest but the fourth was gone. I searched around in the straw and grass and finally found the fourth about three feet away, still alive but very cool to the touch. I placed it back with the others and returned to the house to watch for mama.

About thirty minutes before sunset, I watched as Notcho came out of some tall grass at the edge of our yard and hopped over to the man-made rabbit den. She sniffed around for awhile and finally went inside to feed her babies. Success! After about 30 minutes, she exited the den and stood nearby. That is when I captured the image of Notcho outside the little house we made. As you can see, it was just before dark.

BR8I0522

I slept a lot better that night and wasn’t too concerned when it began raining again. Over the next few weeks, we watched the bunnies grow, their ears standing tall and their eyes opening to see the world. Finally, one day I decided to take a look in the nest and they were all gone, of course. Who knows if any of them survived after they left the nest, but that is between the bunnies and Mother Nature. I had done my part, the least I could do after the incident with that darn brush hog.

Thanks for looking,

DB

Notcho the Cottontail:  Canon 1D Mark IV; Canon 500/4 L IS Lens; 1/125 @ f/4.5; ISO 200; RAW Capture; Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod with Wimberley II Head; converted and processed in Canon DPP

Notcho in Magic Light:  Canon 1D Mark IV; Canon 500/4 L IS Lens; 1/160 @ f/7.1; ISO 400; RAW Capture; Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod with Wimberley II Head; converted and processed in Canon DPP

Nocho’s New Den:  Canon 1D Mark IV; Canon 500/4 L IS Lens; 1/100 @ f/5.0; ISO 400; RAW Capture; Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod with Wimberley II Head; converted and processed in Canon DPP

13 comments on “Notcho the Cottontail”

  1. What a beautiful story, Danny….it brought a tears to my eyes and a smile to my lips….you are the sweetest person and I know you must have been blessed for this wonderful act of kindness…and please, no more mowing in the Spring….Love you ..

  2. Ohhhh once again “goose bumps” after reading this story. We cannot help but learn so much from your beautiful pictures and stories.

  3. I look forward to your blog each week. I love both your photographs and your stories. Since Google reconfigured its email, your blog now goes into spam, so I retrieve it each week. Apparently, there is something you can do to direct it back into our inboxes. I’d like that. I wish you could see the smile on my face at each new posting. Thank you! Jill Cumming jillcumming@gmail.com

    • Hi Jill. I happy to hear you are enjoying Nature Frames and sad to hear it is getting in your Spam filter. I don’t know what I can do from my end as WordPress handles the email shipments. You might just have to save the link to your desktop and remember to open it every Thursday. Better yet, find me on Facebook where I post the link every Thursday morning and you can just click on it and it will take you to the blog. Just type in Danny Brown, Union, Missouri and Friend me. Good luck.

  4. What a great story, and pictures, Danny. I think that you have the makings of a great childrens book. FARM BROWN, and HIS FURRY FRIENDS. You are a wonderful Humanitarian, and Naturalist. I hope you have a GREAT Holiday Weekend.

    Art

  5. Great story. That’s a great little home you built for them.

  6. This is so sweet. I love it. Lauren had a rabbit for 9 years. He died just a few months ago. Sure do miss him. (Btw, this is Brenda’s sister).

    • Hi Judy. Nice to hear from you and I’m glad my story brought back memories of Lauren’s pet. Tell everybody I said hi.


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