Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Last Animal of June

Up until now, one of the most obvious omissions from Useless Creatures has been the body of a rabbit. Eastern cottontails are common here and seem to be quite comfortable in urban settings, and we see them often enough, hopping around our apartment complex at dusk and early morning. In the evening, the color of their fur camouflages perfectly with the ground or sidewalk, and when stock-still, they are almost impossible to see.

A few weeks ago, while driving, we spotted the body of a large rabbit near the intersection of Presque Isle Avenue and Wright Street. It's a pretty busy stretch of road, and before Wright Street hits Lakeshore Boulevard, it runs right through a wide expanse of lawn -- the perfect grazing site for cottontails. There was no way I could photograph the animal, as it was in the middle of the road and the traffic in the area is just way too constant. A day later, the body was gone.

This past week, Steph spotted a rabbit that had been hit, on US 41 just outside of Marquette. We didn't pull over at the time, as we were on our way back from the veterinarian, it was rush hour, and the afternoon sun was glaring down. We decided we'd return later in the day, when that particular stretch of road is in the shadow.

Now, I've photographed several roadkill animals, but none along so busy of a road. The highways in the Upper Peninsula aren't 75-mph freeways, but they can be busy, and few people obey the 55-mph speed limit. Luckily, there was a turn-off nearby where I could park, and when I returned around 7:30 PM, traffic had died down considerably.

June Rabbit I

The rabbit was quite small, and looked like it had died relatively recently. With the exception of its missing eyes, it was very intact. The body laid on the side of the road, away from cars' tires, and was surprisingly peaceful. Accumulating around it was the debris and detritus that collects on roadsides: pieces of plastic, gravel and grit, plant bits, and chips of paint. The fur looked very soft, but I didn't think to touch it.

June Rabbit II

As far as I know, I hadn't viewed a wild rabbit so closely before, and I marveled at its very long and fluffy hind feet. Rabbits, as cute as they tend to be, are rather mysterious to me; they're bizarre animals, and there's a misconception that they're rodents (they're lagomorphs).

June Rabbit III

We drove along this stretch of road a day or two later, but by then, the rabbit's body had disappeared completely. I'm hopeful that a scavenger took off with it, and not a highway clean-up crew.


  1. Is it a cottontail or a snowshoe hare?

  2. I think it's a cottontail... I'm looking at pictures of snowshoe hares in their summer morphs, and their feet are still more large and furry.

  3. My favorite thing about these photos is the way the sand is collected in a perfect outline around the body of the rabbit.