June 27, 2009

Cute or creepy? You decide

Our first night on Beautiful Campus Where Friendly Green Conference Was Held, my roommates and I went out to find a grocery store. As we walked down the road, I spotted a couple of rabbits on the embankment, eating grass in the afternoon light.

“Oh, aren’t they cute?”
“Shh … don’t scare them.”

We stopped, charmed by the chance encounter with some urban wildlife.

“Aw, look, there’s a baby one.”
“They don’t even seem afraid.”

On our walk back, we noticed more rabbits as we came onto campus. Black rabbits, this time. And then some white ones. Unlike wild rabbits who dart away at any movement, these rabbits paid no attention to us. It was dusk when we reached the lawn nearest our dorm suite, grass that was cropped suspiciously short. Dark shapes, perhaps thirty or forty of them, came crawling across the open space.

Three rabbits eating grass in the sun is cute. Forty rabbits approaching in the dusk is creepy.

For the next seven days, between plenaries and concurrent sessions and meals in the dining hall, we talked about the rabbits. They were everywhere. Hundreds of rabbits, someone said. No, thousands, said someone else. They’d begun as pet rabbits dumped onto the campus, an environment with so few predators that they had bred like … well, like rabbits.

One colleague said he was tempted to jettison his paper and instead do an ecocritical analysis of Night of the Lepus, the 1972 horror film in which people are terrorized by mutant rabbits.

“Can you imagine what this place must look like at Easter time?” asked another colleague. “Eggs everywhere!”

Jokes turned to serious discussion: it was pretty easy to see that the rabbits who conveniently kept the lawns cut short were also destroying any native vegetation. They are as much a nuisance as a source of entertainment.

Many of us had been talking about Alisa Smith and J.B.Mackinnon’s book The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating which chronicles a couple’s attempt to eat only foods that came from within a hundred miles of where they live. “Eat local” has become the new mantra amongst food activists. So the solution to the rabbit problem on campus seemed obvious to us: scoop those tame rabbits up and feed them to the students.

We never did get to propose our idea to anyone who might enact it, but the jokes and conversations about the rabbits continued. When I walked through the campus late at night, the flocks of rabbits, usually sitting motionless and staring at me, gave me chills. Many of my colleagues, on the other hand, found them cute. Between sessions, I’d see colleagues crouched on the ground, photographing the bunnies.

“Where’s the next conference?” asked Curly Hair. “I’m hoping for alligators or maybe bears.”

“How come you never mentioned the rabbits?” I asked Charming Canadian Host. I may have sounded a bit accusing, but after all, he spent a whole weekend with the leadership team when we were planning the conference and he never mentioned rabbits. Not even once.

He shrugged. “If your campus was infested with rats, would you tell everyone?”

Cute or creepy?  You decide


Unknown said...

Isn't it more like the black squirrels at Amherst?

Psycgirl said...

At dusk, that would definitely be creepy.
I suppose they must save money on mowing and landscaping though

Teri said...

OMG, that's incredible! When you said there were rabbits, I didn't picture them quite like this. Insane. And yes, at night, definitely creepy. Eating them, though (says another veggie), would be even more creepy. It's like when I lived on Iona and the day lambs were taken away was one of the 2 meat days of the week and it happened to be lamb. They weren't the same lambs, but there were a lot of "vegetarians" that day....

Anonymous said...

my vote is for creepy. that is so crazy though... i think your rabbit meal idea is fabulous!

Amber S said...

They look huge!! I would be creeped out even during the day with that many tame rabbits around.

Time for some hassenpfeffer!

kathy a. said...

i thought you might be taking a little, ahem, artistic license with the rabbit descriptions. but guess not. wow.

YourFireAnt said...

Creepy. But they can't help it.

Rana said...

They're definitely creepy, and not just because they're numerous. It's because prey animals that refuse to run away make me think that they must be sick or otherwise impaired. Run away!

(I will admit that the young bunnies were quite cute.)

(I am amused that my verification word is "bared")

Rana said...

Re: eating them - I worry about the chemicals in the grass they're eating.

Pyscgirl - what I was told was that they're actually rather a pain for the landscaping crew, not least because they apparently adore native plants, which interferes with the campus' efforts to plant more natives. Their burrowing is also damaging.

Overeducated Twit said...

Creepy. To quote Buffy's Anya:

Bunnies aren't just cute like everybody supposes,
They got them hoppy legs and twitchy little noses,
And what's with all the carrots?
What do they need such good eyesight for anyway?

niobe said...

Can rats and rabbits crossbreed? Because that's exactly what imagine the result would look like.

a/k/a Nadine said...

I'm going with creepy. I prefer normal, wild rabbits over domesticated ones any day.

zelda1 said...

Our university is like that with squirrels and also we have a few tame rabbits. But, we also have red tail hawks and every once in a while, they tire of eating the pigeons and will swoop down, sometimes in front of me, and grab one of the friendly rodents. The first time, I was traumatized by this brutal evidence of survival, but now, I just keep right on walking.

Anonymous said...

What's creepy is that so many people are irresponsible, as far as taking responsibility for their pets.

Anonymous said...

I'd say Alfred Hitchcock missed a trick there.

comebacknikki said...

They are so creepy!!

nimiecat said...

Ugh. A friend of mine from elematary school family kept a rabbit hutch. I was there for diner one night in which they served fried chicken and rabbit. They wouldn't tell me which was which and I couldn't tell the differance. Was so grossed out by the event that I didn't eat fried chicken for years.

So, my vote is no for serving the bunnies. :)

Ianqui said...

Definitely creepy. I can see the comparison to rats.

Casey said...

Wow. Shame on whoever dumped those first pets into the woods. Definitely creepy.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I might have said this last time you wrote about rabbits; but:

At the High Desert Museum in Bend, OR there are photos of the first white settlers in eastern OR. One of the photos shows the aftermath of a rabbit hunt. Apparently in some years the jackrabbits would be especially prolific & the whole town would hunt them -- the photo shows children, old women, everyone holding clubs, surrounded by dead rabbits.

This is the only similar pic I could find: http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2006/02/jack-rabbit-history.html

Magpie said...

Round these parts, the Canada geese are the varmint. Every once in a while, someone has the bright idea or rounding them up and feeding them to the foodless. It never gets anywhere, but maybe if tagged as "locavore" it would fly.