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Is it too much to expect a little deference and humility ... from a rabbit?

In a long bygone era a guy might compare the state of my neighborhood to setting up housekeeping in the Playboy Club ... the place is chock-a-block with bunnies. We have rabbits under the porch, under the bushes, lurking in the lilies, a veritable herd of hopping furballs ... furballs with an attitude.

These are street-wise urban animals. Cottontails well aware that dogs are leashed, cats declawed and humans pose no threat they need to respect. Stay out of the path of a texting motorist or circling hawk and there’s no reason Peter shouldn’t expect to peter out from old age.

Now I have no objection to sharing the back yard with a few bunnies — although the marauders that nibbled down my tulips this spring would likely have been so much Hasenpfeffer had I caught them in the act — even if a long, hungry winter left them too tough and scrawny to make a proper stew. But, inoffensive as they may be, it was still a bit disconcerting last night when a couple neighbor guys and I were discussing world affairs in a shady spot on the driveway and a particularly arrogant critter sidled up, sat down by my lawn chair — apparently expecting me to get up and fetch him a Busch Light. We had to remind him the neighborhood rule is “bring your own beer” before he hopped away.

I don’t get it. Rabbits are supposed to be shy, skittish things. Nervous little animals that hide in the weeds and cower in the shadows, not self important party crashers who hop up with every expectation of being treated as an honored guest rather than a menu item. It appears they’ve lost their forebears instinctual awareness that if a rabbit was at a barbeque, he was the barbeque ...

But it’s not just rabbits. Friends who live in the bluffs and valleys tell me how their cornfields and garden plots are a 24-hour all-you-can-eat buffet for Bambi and her ever expanding brood; they tell of regularly waking up to see white tails and antlers where their hostas used to be. And thus discovered, do these supposedly shy woodland denizens instantly flip their tails and bound away? Nope. They stand there as if waiting for seconds, or for the soup course to be served. If they do leave it’s to waddle out onto the nearest roadway, somehow convinced that the pedestrian right-of-way ordinance applies to them or, at least where they’re concerned, the laws of physics no longer apply to them.

Body shops doing a bumper crop of business give evidence to their error.

There you have it. Emboldened bunnies. Daring deer. All manner of critters coming around where those critters were never seen before. Something’s different. Something’s changed.

When it comes to rabbits and deer, it’s not all that hard to figure out. The change is us — people. We’ve taken up residence in places not long ago pretty much reserved for wildlife. We’ve gotten rid of predators, controlled our pets, put out food and pretty much made anywhere in proximity to our homes a wildlife sanctuary. We’ve indelibly altered the environment to suit ourselves and the environment has responded in ways we might not have anticipated.

Like bunnies dropping by for a beer ...

Now a few more deer and wild hares acting a little less wild are hardly eco-catastrophes in themselves, but they do remind us that we’re not a necessarily benign presence on the planet, an observation legitimate climate scientists are all but unanimous in sharing. We do well to heed the evidence all around us that human activity is making this a world less and less habitable for humans even as there are ever more and more of us.

And if this isn’t your grandpa’s planet any more, what will we be passing on to our grandkids?

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Jerome Christenson is a former reporter, columnist and editor at the Winona Daily News.

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