This time last year we received regular visits from several groundhogs like this guy:
Occasionally there would be as many as three in the yard at one time, chomping away on our grass. Almost every day I would try to get close to them to take a good picture. If I even touched the handle of the sliding glass door they would take off into the woods. Any noise at all sent them scurrying. I tried going out the front door and sneaking around the house, but they would always detect me and run off. If one ran they would all run. Blurry pictures like the one above were about the best I ever got. I guess it’s possible that like bigfoot, groundhogs are just blurry.
No groundhogs so far this year, just rabbits. Tons of rabbits. I’ve noticed something interesting about the rabbits. First – they don’t immediately identify me as a threat. If I walk on to the back deck the rabbits just freeze and stare at me. I can walk around on the deck, use the grill, etc, and they just sit perfectly still. If I make a move directly towards them they run in to the woods. But here’s the interesting thing – if one of our Rhodesian Ridgebacks simply sticks his head out the door the yard is instantly cleared of rabbits.
Ridgebacks, sometimes called African Lion Hounds, are most famous for their use in lion hunting, but they have just as commonly been used for rabbit hunting. They don’t hunt rabbits in the way we think of beagles today sniffing out rabbits and pushing them out in front of hunters. Ridgebacks are descendants of the original hunting dogs. Before there were gun dogs – before there were guns – dogs did the hunting. When you use Ridgebacks for rabbit hunting you let them loose in the woods, they sniff out rabbits, chase them, and catch them. The hunter’s job is to stay close and swap out the rabbit for a treat before it gets devoured.
Do the rabbits instinctively know this? Our dogs have caught (and killed) rabbits in the yard. The rabbits might just run from the dogs because they’ve been chased by them (daily) and don’t run from me because I’ve never chased them. But I’m a hunter, too! Will they run if I go out there with a shotgun? Or maybe only in rabbit season.
Rabbits are smart.