Sunday, September 18, 2011

Swamp Rabbit

At the Missouri Mycological Society (MOMS) foray at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge this weekend, Barb learned about swamp rabbits from our new friends, Jack and Marty Toll.  Jack did his Master's thesis on these interesting bunnies and later managed the Mingo Refuge for a number of years.

Click to enlarge
The very next day she pointed out a swamp rabbit in the woods.  I was able to get a single telephoto picture of the south end of this north-bound rabbit before it disappeared into a thick mass of stinging nettle.  You may have to look carefully at the enlarged picture to find it.

A swamp rabbit (Sylvilagus aquaticus) is described at MDC Online as a type of cottontail that is much larger than our more familiar variety.  It inhabits the wetlands of the south and Mingo in the Bootheel is perfect territory.  It eats reeds, sedges and other plants, switching to twigs and bark of shrubs in the winter.

Swamp Rabbit- MDC
Without the thickets which hide our native cottontails it would seem to be a sitting duck (pardon the expression) in the swamp.  Fear not- it has a trick up its fuzzy tail.  Swamp rabbits can not only run up to 45 mph, they can also swim and dive under the water, coming under roots and vegetation.  They sometimes will hide in shallow water with only their noses exposed.

A swamp rabbit in Georgia gained fame in 1979 while escaping from a pack of hounds.  It jumped into a pond and swam toward President Jimmie Carter who was paddling in a boat away from the protection of Secret Service.  The encounter could have caused an environmental incident had not the President fended off the vicious animal with a paddle.  The whole frightening incident is described in this Wikipedia story.

Presidential Attack!   Note rabbit wake to the right.
Lest you think that President Carter was overly cautious, recall that five years earlier he could have seen Monty Python's Holy Grail.  You can see that horrifying scene on Youtube.  Fortunately, Barb's fierce-some reputation with rabbits in our garden has spread to the southeastern lagomorphs and this poor creature ran away.  Lucky for it!

1 comment:

  1. Ahahahaha! What a scene that would be to witness in person. How many Secret Service guys freaked over this... better many couldn't do a thing because they were laughing so hard .

    I do hope the Presidential Decrees and Expletives don't affect the rabbit badly.