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The War on Rabbits
By Michelle McCormick
Peter Rabbit was one of my favorite childhood stories, mainly because of its villain, Mr. McGregor. Who wouldn’t love a tale where an ill-tempered gardener, armed with a rake, chases around a fully clothed rabbit, slams a sieve on him, then tries to squash him with his big foot? This is exciting stuff! No matter how many times I heard the story as a child, I held my breath for Peter, praying he’d make it to safety (which, of course, he always did.) Fast forward thirty-something years. I am now an avid gardener and can state with absolute conviction: Mr. McGregor was completely misunderstood.
Gardeners vs. rabbits
We plant…they eat. This ancient conflict sorts gardeners into two classifications: the Go-With-The-Flows and the Ninjas. The Go-With-The-Flow gardeners view rabbits as a nuisance, but don’t lose any sleep over it. Then there are the Ninja gardeners, who rise up like warriors, defending their plants with every weapon at their disposal.
I am a Ninja, but only in the springtime. Frankly, by the time Nebraska hits its brutal heat wave in July, I could care less if the bunnies, bugs, and birds ate every last stalk in the place. There’s something about the spring battle, though, that nudges me over the edge. Perhaps it’s the hours of backbreaking work: I buy. I plant. I water. I mulch. Then, when I finally sit down long enough to admire all I’ve accomplished, in hops Mr. Hasenpfeffer, who eyes me smugly as he nips off the top of my lemon coleus. Fiend!
So what’s a helpless gardener to do? Let’s start with the most violent solution: shoot them. Many do in rural Nebraska, but I don’t recommend it. Discharging a weapon within town limits is illegal. No matter how much you paid for that new clematis, it’s not worth risking time in the clink for. Plus, you’ll probably end up shooting your dog instead of the critter. For those of you who live in the country, there is a legal hunting season on rabbits, but it ends in February, long before the first tender shoots push out of the ground.
Hair beats hare
The next option is my favorite, and it really does work: human hair. Rabbits can’t stand the stuff! Go to your hairdresser, bag up the discarded trimmings (preferably black or brown as it blends into the dirt better), and scatter it around your plants. I will admit, I was a bit queasy touching someone else’s hair, but I wore my gardening gloves and got the job done. I rarely see a rabbit now, and if I do, it’s not near my flowerbeds. Hair beats hare. Ha!
I’m sure many of you have your own strategies for the war on rabbits (and I’d love it if you’d share them), but let’s not forget the best option of all: let Mother Nature do her thing in the form of owls, hawks, eagles, coyotes, foxes, and even snakes. If you’re overrun with rabbits, leave the predators alone for goodness sake! Eating rabbits is what they do, and they do it well. I’m sure Mr. McGregor, exhausted from chasing Peter, would agree.
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