Heidi Strawn
July 5, 2010

Desert cottontail rabbit 

This desert cottontail rabbit isn’t Jackson, but it sure looks like him.

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I take it as an honor when a wild animal chooses my yard as its home. Whether they’re finches nesting in the eaves of the house or Western fence lizards hanging out under the tack shed, I feel blessed when a wild critter feels comfortable enough to live in my presence.

So when Randy and I discovered Jackson, we were very excited. I’m not sure why, since desert cottontails are as common as weeds in Southern California. But the fact that one chose our little farm as his favorite place makes our house feel more like a home.

Jackson—named by Randy, who divines animal monikers from some other-worldly source—spends most of his time in the coyote brush on the slope at the back of our property. Three pepper trees tower over the brush, providing shade to the brush’s dense cover.

In order to come down to the main part of the yard where he can nibble on the horses’ hay or graze on the back lawn, Jackson has to leap down from the hill over a 3-foot retaining fall that holds the hill in place. Not a problem for a wild cottontail. What’s fun is watching him jump the other way, from the ground up, over the wall and into the brush. Seeing him easily leap six times his body length in a single bound makes me appreciate the athleticism of little bunnies.

Although Jackson is very comfortable living in our yard, he had to work things out with our Corgi first. The yard belongs to Nigel, who is our only dog. He has appointed himself the farm sentry, chasing off pigeons that dare land on the roof of the house and alerting us to every person who strolls by with a dog. Keeping Jackson in line is another of his self-appointed tasks.

Nigel has decided it’s okay for Jackson to stroll around the back part of the yard, where the horses live. But heaven help that rabbit if he sets foot on the lawn. If Nigel sees Jackson on the grass, he dashes at him with speed you wouldn’t think a dog with such short legs could muster. The chase ends quickly, because the minute Jackson’s feet hit the dirt beyond the lawn, Nigel quits. He has no desire to make a meal out of Jackson. He just wants him off the lawn.

Every afternoon when the sun starts to go down, Jackson makes his appearance in the horse area. He eyes me cautiously as I do my horse chores; he doesn’t run away like he used to. He’s finally figured out I not only won’t hurt him, but I like him being here. If I’m feeling particularly generous, I’ll lure Nigel into the house so Jackson can spend time on the grass without assault. Nigel wouldn’t be happy to hear this, but I want Jackson to always feel welcome here—even on the lawn.

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