It’s high time to hunt some rabbits

I’ve been waiting for the crash in the rabbit populations for several years now. They’re supposed to by cyclical, rising and falling as disease and other factors affect their numbers. But there are still plenty of the little lagomorphs to hunt.

I learned in school that rabbit and predator populations are driven primarily by disease. When all is going well, they just keep reproducing until they pretty much blanket the landscape. With all these rabbits hiding under every bush and rock, there is plenty for foxes and coyotes to eat, so the predator populations start to increase, too.

But then, the effects of so many rabbits living in such close proximity to one another start to happen, and it usually comes in the form of tularemia. Tularemia as a nasty little disease that rips through those huge rabbit populations like wildfire, and it can knock down the population by 70, 80 or 90 percent, or even more. That means fewer rabbits for foxes and coyotes to dine on, so their populations start to shrink shortly after the rabbit numbers plummet.

Common wisdom holds that this cycle generally varies from four to 12 years. But it seems like the rabbit populations around southeast Wyoming have been booming for the last 15, at least. I’m amazed the numbers haven’t tanked yet.

But my kids and I are going to get out this weekend to see if we can make at least a small dent in the population. It’s been a few years since we hunted rabbits, and we’re all wanting to get back to the basics for a few days.

We might start by thinning the rabbits around our place. We can’t seem to take five steps through the pastures without kicking up a cottontail or the occasional jackrabbit. It’s high time we do a little bunny hunting, and then reward ourselves for our efforts with a tasty conejo casserole.

If you’re wanting to do a little rabbit hunting of your own, do it soon. That tularemia outbreak might be right around the corner, and it might be a few years before the rabbit populations are this abundant again.