Baby Bunny at the Border Fort: Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus Audubonii

Big name for a small bunny. The baby? Much tinier yet. The itty bitty Sylvilagus audubonii (aka desert cottontail rabbit) showed up near the Border Fort just at dusk, in low enough light to make the maximum-zoom photos challenging to say the least. Which is why some of the pictures have that “oil painting” effect, produced by digital multiplication of the optical zoom.

The sighting was downright magical. Despite putting out carrots for these little critters for the past five years on our Cochise County homestead, we’d never before spotted such a young rabbit so close to the house. A first time mother did have a litter of two this year, in a burrow dug beneath the camper shell that sits out front on dunnage boards, but neither of those survived for more than a few weeks. Last year, a couple of babies turned up some thirty yards off, tucked in between storage sheds; one of those made it all the way to rabbit adulthood. But for the most part, the only big-eared carrot eaters turning up in the feeding area have been grownups or close to it.

This toddler’s sudden appearance was therefore super special to both of us. I was just heading toward the house when I called out to Pam, who was sitting in a front porch chair, “I think I see a baby bunny!”

Out came the Canon PowerShot. In went Pam, to see if she could spot the little guy through the kitchen window.

The first photo taken of our first close-to-the-house baby desert cottontail rabbit.

The first photo taken of our first close-to-the-house baby desert cottontail rabbit.

To say we were thrilled to see this little guy make his first appearance would be a definite understatement.  This is one of the big benefits of living off grid, "out in the boonies."

To say we were thrilled to see this little guy make his first appearance would be a definite understatement. This is one of the big benefits of living off grid, “out in the boonies.”

Curiously enough, I saw the magical mini-rabbit as a symbol of rebirth, of new beginnings…because of the timing of the sighting. For several minutes, I’d been rehearsing what I would one day say to a certain person who might need to know whether I could be entrusted with a specific spiritual task. Ten years ago, I recklessly violated the Law of Silence, what our parents in the forties referred to as “talking out of school.” Was the time approaching that I could be reinstated in a position of trust among people important to me? I thought so, but it was a “maybe” sort of situation…and then, suddenly, the baby bunny appeared. Second chance rabbit symbol, you might say.

So this cutie will most likely be named Chance.

Speaking of Named Rabbits, here’s a visual comparison between Chance and Proximity Bunny–a yearling who first showed up last year, following me around as I worked in the front yard on the solar generator and, later, the gas line installation project. We currently call four of the numerous long eared critters around here by name: Chance, Proximity, Teacup (who would have fit inside a teacup the first time we saw her last year, over by one of the storage sheds), and Jack–who is, of course, a young jack rabbit who’s come to trust my wife to an astounding extent and who hangs out a lot with one of the much smaller cottontails.

Proximity Bunny, the yearling.  I nearly stepped on him this evening.  He didn't sweat that very much, just moved over a couple of feet and kept on nibbling, happy to hang out near me for a while.

Proximity Bunny, the yearling. I nearly stepped on him this evening. He didn’t sweat that very much, just moved over a couple of feet and kept on nibbling, happy to hang out near me for a while.

Chance Bunny, our little symbol of rebirth and new beginnings, only a few weeks old.  This was very likely his first journey out of the burrow.

Chance Bunny, our little symbol of rebirth and new beginnings, only a few weeks old. This was very likely his first journey out of the burrow.

We like Chance’s chances of surviving to adulthood much better than other little ones we’ve seen before. Over by the storage sheds, the coyotes trail through from time to time, and there are many other predators out there who thrive on baby bunny tartare when they can get it. Under the camper shell, the cover is limited; outside of the shell itself, there is only bare ground. But Chance has been given a great start in life; his mother chose to dig her burrow beneath the spreading cover of a great green bush with drooping branches and plentiful foliage, so from his position in these photos, he’s one baby bunny hop away from deep cover. Additionally, the burrow is dug into the side of a sizeable dirt ridge left over from cleaning out the drainage ditch (for the French drain) with the backhoe. Awesome bunny hide. Beyond that, he’s got the left over sand pile (bright pile, lower left in most photos) to protect him on the south side, and the mound covering the westernmost bunny feeder pipe to his north. Plus, he’s no more than fifteen from my north side office window, so the looming Border Fort adds even more protection.

Good work, Mommy Rabbit.

While I watched–and Pam couldn’t see a bit of the bunny, because of the sand ridge blocking her view–little Chance decided to start nosing the ground for food like the big bunnies do…

Nose to the ground, sniffing for food.

Nose to the ground, sniffing for food.

…thought things over for a while…

Baby bunny thinking pose.

Baby bunny thinking pose.

…and then finally decided he’d been away from the burrow long enough for his first expedition. He turned…

Turning back.  Far enough for the day's adventure.

Turning back. Far enough for the day’s adventure.

…and headed back to deep cover and, presumably, Burrow Sweet Burrow.

Heading back to the burrow, before the night hunters come out.  Smart baby, that Chance Bunny.

Heading back to the burrow, before the night hunters come out. Smart baby, that Chance Bunny.