Friday, September 9, 2016

Rabbits (Not Bunnies, Just Rabbits)

Coming from a fairly urban environment to North Las Vegas, I never expected to be thrust into a veritable zoo of wildlife. Don’t get me wrong – we have animals in New York, even in the city, and they are rather hearty types.

We have skunks, raccoons, squirrels, pigeons, birds of all types, even some pretty ones, and we have rats! The skunks and raccoons are nocturnal so the chance of running into one of them while walking your dog in the day light is remote. Night walks are another story altogether, especially on evenings before garbage pick-ups. The raccoons and skunks either have very good noses (probably) or are intelligent enough to have learned the days of the week (possibly). Sunday evenings before Monday trash pick-ups were usually the best time for spotting urban game lurking under a parked car or hiding behind a shrub.

A close encounter involves a snarl on one end and a feverish barking Maltese on the other but the stand-off usually results in a draw and the ways of urban nature go undisturbed. Get too close and risk being sprayed or even worse.

Our little house in North Las Vegas is sandwiched between a quiet street of similar (more like EXACTLY THE SAME) houses on one side and a golf course on the other. We tolerate the occasional stray golf ball hitting the side of the house or rolling into our space. Our dogs even put up with the occasional golfer crossing the “Out Of Bounds” line and searching our bushes for a ball (tolerate for dogs equals frantic snarly and incessant barking, by the way). We retrieve the lost, unclaimed balls, especially after a weekend, in the unlikeliest of places. So be it! No big deal.

What we never expected was the number and variety of wild critters that make their homes around our home and neighborhood.

New Yorkers are no strangers to rabbits. They (the rabbits) live in the suburbs twenty minutes or so from the busy streets of the city or closer in enclosures we call “Pet Stores!” We know some people (even relatives) that have or have had a rabbit or two as a pet. They always seemed quite docile and rather motionless inside their too small indoor hutches surrounded by hay and toys they were unlikely to play with. Most of these family pets start out small and skinny but grow fat and ponderous from too much good food and little or no exercise.

Enter the Las Vegas Desert Golf Course Dwelling Jackrabbit!!! I am sure I am at fault for not paying attention to the non-man-eating beasts on the TV nature programs or for by-passing the rabbit houses at the Bronx Zoo deeming them uninteresting and boring as a kid but the creature that lives under a rosemary bush three feet from our patio sliding door is a ferocious looking beast like I have never seen before.

We call him Jack since I am reasonably sure he (she maybe! – if so we apologize for the gender naming mix-up) is a jackrabbit.

To start with he is huge. Not fat mind you. On the contrary, he is sleek and wiry, the very definition of one of those lean, mean prize-fighters with no pronounced muscles to speak of who kick the crap out of anyone who gets in their way. He is tall but that incudes his ears and who wouldn’t since, after his eyes, they are the most pronounced feature of this animal. When he stretches out to wander out onto the golf course for dinner he is longer and taller than either our Maltese or our Shi-Tzu. That’s not saying much but he’s a rabbit after all. If you were expecting warm, furry and cuddly as in “bunny,” Jack’s not your guy. He is every bit as wily as “Wily Coyote.” (By the way, we have those too but that’s a story for another post!).

Most times Jack just sits outside our back door and stares which is easy for him since his eyes are dark, large, and bulging. With a few small modifications by an amateur illustrator he could easily be turned into the Zombie Rabbit of your worst nightmare.

Jack has friends and perhaps even family. Although there are a few other jackrabbits of his size and stature in the neighborhood, most are smaller (maybe children!) and many are different looking which leads me to conclude that in addition to jackrabbits we also have other breeds of rabbits around here. These other rabbits terrify you with their sheer numbers rather than their frightening appearance.

Our complex has set aside a few grassy areas for dog walking, complete with an ample supply of doggy doodie bags for dealing with (well, you know what I mean!). Evening walks, just like back in the city, require a flash light since the green patch at night is covered (that is not an exaggeration) with rabbits that mostly flee when you shine a light on them. It’s creepy to see so many rabbits in the same place at the same time. I have counted thirty at once but I am sure some have already fled by the time I gather enough composure to count.

Some do not flee. These are the bigger ones, not as big as Jack but way bigger than the average rabbit. Their mottled coats tell me they are some kind of hybrid born out of some ungodly union between different breeds of rabbit. Shine a light on them and they do not flinch; walk up to them and they do not move; hiss, “Shoo!” at them and they remain. Only my dog can scatter them with a lunge and a yelp. Good thing they do not lunge back.

These rabbits are grey, brown, beige, black, white or any combination of the above. There is a solid black one of impressive size who has little or no fear of humans and none of little dogs. We avoid him.

Each night we do our business quickly and leave the grass to the rabbits.

I have mentioned the “rabbit issue” to a few neighbors who are willing to speak to a New Yorker. The response is immediate and vehement – they (the rabbits) are hated members of the community and in the best Trumpian spirit they have attempted to have them banned, deported or even exterminated. The local newsletter has contained articles detailing the progress (little, if any) that has been made with the Animal Control people. “Desert animals live in the desert,” the authorities have said and “we are living on their territory.” Not dismayed the anti-rabbit posse has suggested (again very Trump-like) building “rabbit-proof” walls throughout the community. Although it didn’t say so in the article I am sure someone suggested having the rabbits pay for the wall as well!

As a side note our community (55+ as it happens to be and fairly (hugely) conservative) has many election signs posted in front yards. To the dismay of a liberal, soft, mealy-mouthed (their description, not mine) Democrat from the east coast, the Trump signs out front out-number the Hillary signs about 20-1 ( that’s not an average – there are about 20 Trump signs and one lonely but proud Hillary sign). Each time I pass the Hillary sign I beep my car horn in support; each time I pass a Trump sign I wonder if the occupants of that home really do support a megalomaniac, war mongering, bigoted, frightened,  failed entrepreneur from NYC or they just want to get rid of the rabbits!