7 Month CD Special National Bank of Coxsackie

THROUGH THE WOODS: The Year of the Rabbit

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Cottontail rabbit. Photo by Nancy Jane Kern

HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR, The Year of the Rabbit. The rabbit has long been associated with our Moon and is said to live in harmony with nature. In Chinese folklore, the rabbit is frequently depicted as a companion and pet of Chang’e, the moon goddess. The rabbit is quick-witted and a swift runner.

Also in Chinese culture, the rabbit is a symbol of longevity and good fortune, and many Chinese people consider the rabbit to be a lucky animal and will have rabbit-themed decorations in their homes during the Chinese New Year.

The rabbit’s foot is a symbol of luck in several countries. When I was in grade school in the 1950s children often had a rabbit’s foot attached to their purse or book bag or kept in a pocket. We bought them in Delson’s Store in Chatham, and they came in natural or dyed colors. I was envious of a friend who had a blue one. Mine was white. The paw was real, and a metal cap covered the end and had a chain through it. Times have changed. No furs or rabbits’ feet good luck charms now.

Rabbits being associated with the moon is a logical association. Our cottontail rabbits love moonlight and if you go out in a field near woods at night in the warmer months you may see several chasing and cavorting around in courtship. Multiplying like rabbits is no joke. A cottontail rabbit’s gestation period is about 28 days and the litter of 3-8 babies (called kits or kittens) is weaned and independent at 4-5 weeks. Mama rabbits with luck might produce 30-40 offspring in a season.

Unfortunately, there are numerous predators of rabbits, including man. Weasels, hawks, owls, foxes, coyotes, dogs, bobcats, and other animals eat them. At 2-3 lbs. each one is a good meal for most. When in danger, cottontail rabbits will make a loud screech. This quickly alerts other rabbits that something bad is happening. Without their predators, we would be overrun and have a reduced food supply.

Rabbit populations wax and wane like the moon. Typically, cottontail populations cycle between highs and lows. A population tends to increase until limiting factors such as poor reproduction, food scarcity, predation, disease, and/or weather conditions reduce populations. Gradually numbers will rise again over several years.

Wild rabbits should not be handled or kept as pets. They may attack and can give a severe bite. They also carry diseases such as tularemia which may be life-threatening and need immediate treatment. They are interesting animals to observe, cute, and best left in nature. In winter look for their distinctive tracks in the snow and may the Year of the Rabbit bring you good fortune!

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