Last night I went out with my Great Dane, Morleigh, to feed my animals. Morleigh is getting old, so I like spending as much time with her as I can. When I entered my garden to feed the animals living there I noticed a black Rabbit sitting on the grass and having a meal. She was not in her hutch and was all by herself. I calmly walked to her hutch and noticed that there was a gap at the back through which she must have escaped. I realised that when I last moved the hutch I apparently ripped the backboard from the rear, making a gap large enough for a rabbit to push through. I could not leave her to roam the garden as she would damage my young trees and my vegetables.
This is not the first time a Rabbit has escaped a hutch. I normally have no problem at all in catching the rogue Rabbits. They are fairly tame as I have been their primary carer/feeder their whole lives. I normally walk up calmly and quietly, talking gently to the Rabbit is a low voice. Once I get close I quickly reach out and grab them on their skin at the back of their neck (the skin there is flexible, similar to a young puppy, so it doesn’t hurt them) and then I carefully place them back in their home. I have had 100% success rate in this method until last night. When I reached out and grabbed the Rabbit she moved. I tried to grab a hold of her, yet I couldn’t get a grip. She hopped away and for the next 20 minutes she kept running away as I chased her around the yard… she progressively became faster, I became tired. The light was beginning to fade so I did not have long to complete this. I decided to try to coax her with some food, yet she had been eating flowers and grass all day, so she wasn’t interested in anything I had to offer. After another 10 minutes I decided I would have to get some help. Morleigh was just outside the fence and I know she is good at catching Possums (She apparently has an intense hatred for them, I don’t know why and I don’t think she would tell me if I asked). I decided to let her in and I gave her a command to catch the Rabbit. She was off immediately, running after the Rabbit… I helped, yet the Rabbit hid behind one of my Compost bins (one made out of old wooden Pallets). I tried to reach her, yet the Rabbit was just out of reach. For minutes I kept trying, scratching my arms, bumping my head, being attacked my ants. Eventually, I managed to grab her… all I could reach were her ears so I picked her up by them. Now, it is vital that I tell you that this is something you should never do… that old image of a Magician plucking a rabbit from their hat and holding it aloft by it’s ears is not accurate. It can hurt the Rabbit so if you need to hold a Rabbit in one hand you should hold it by the skin on the back of it’s neck (or cradle it in your arms, which is even better)… yet I had no choice, it was all I could reach. I lifted her from behind the compost bin and held her aloft for a moment, smiling with pride that I had finally caught the Rabbit. In that second of exultation Morleigh (who I had forgotten in all the excitement and who was standing next to me) snatched the Rabbit from my hand and leapt away, shaking the Rabbit violently. I shouted at her to stop, which she did (she is a very good dog) and she dropped the now stunned Rabbit on the ground. I rushed over, the Rabbit seemed to be dead, yet on examination it was just feigning. I picked it up and examined it. I could see no blood, yet it was very floppy… like it had feinted. I placed it back in the hutch and after a few minutes it moved around it’s home. It was not moving properly, it was having trouble breathing and it was obviously in shock as it’s heart was beating like crazy. I could see that it would not last the night. It was then that I decided that I would have to put the animal down. I could not, as a caring owner, allow it to suffer. As a Prepper I could not allow the animal to die on that hot evening and for the meat and pelt to go to waste.
I told Morleigh that she was a good dog, and she was happy. I think she thought she was in trouble, which she wasn’t. It was my fault as I held the Rabbit up in the air… she must have thought I wanted to play with her. I went inside, prepared the equipment I needed… knives, a hatchet, plastic bags and a bowl for the meat. I placed an oil lantern near my butchering table (as I have no light there… something I will have to correct in the future) and I was finally ready. I usually don’t butcher in the night as it is harder to see… as I mentioned, I have no light where my table is located. I collected the rabbit and it was very limp, yet still alive. I quickly dispatched it and then proceeded to skin/butcher the animal. I could see where my dog had injured the rabbit when I was processing the meat, I suspect sever internal damage and broken ribs, yet I consoled myself that it did not suffer for long. I blame myself for thinking that my dog could help me catch the Rabbit, and for not paying attention once I had caught her.
This was a Rabbit that I had intended to butcher many months ago, yet I couldn’t bring myself to do it as it seemed so cute and tame. I had decided to turn it into one of my breeding stock. With this incident I feel I did the right thing for the animal in the end, yet I will now have to inspect all my hutches to ensure the Rabbits don’t escape. Have I learned anything from this? Definitely, I have learned the following lessons:
- Get a portable light so I can position it where needed.
- Pay more attention to where my dog is if I am handling Rabbits.
- Inspect the hutches for weaknesses.
- If a Rabbit escapes and I can’t catch it, it may be more humane to shoot it.