The rabbit incident.

Nights with the batties can become quite social, as they’re constantly interacting with other animals. Sure, mostly the interaction involves eating or being eaten. I adore seeing them mow through termites, their tail raising as I know they are about to chase a sun spider, scorpion or mouse, or go to their favourite spot for peanut beetles to drop. More often than not, they’re the ones running away. Their arch nemesis —our local Nguni cattle — go out of their way just to chase the batties around. It’s a rather social affair, especially during the longer nights with our foxes.

Earlier this week, then, I was hoping to see another entertaining rodent chase when I spotted a sizable rabbit right next to our skittish little Bertha. But the moment I saw Bertha’s tail go up – hunter style – I knew I was in for a treat. The chase was over in a second as she almost instantly pinned the rabbit down, going for the neck. It reminded me of how a leopard would suffocate its prey. But of course, in this event the predator and prey were almost the same size. And Bertha was suddenly far less adorable. She carried the rabbit back and once the rabbit stopped moving she started nibbling all over its body, almost as if she didn’t known where to start… Eventually, after playing with her food a little while, she managed to get past the fur. After having a couple of mouthfuls, good old Bruce came along. Bertha then left with a piece, leaving Bruce with the prize, as he began wolfing down the rest,

Bertha, shortly after proving herself an outstanding hunter.

Bertha, shortly after proving herself an outstanding hunter.

leaving almost nothing for scavengers. He even ate the fluffy tail, which he gobbled up whole. Now I know this is horrid, but I could not stop imagining the next day’s fecal samples, all wrapped in fluffiness. Despite its goriness, this was actually a very exciting night – nobody that I know of has ever seen rabbit on the bat-eared foxes’ menus. It’s usually invertebrates and maybe a mouse or two. Is this some new choice by this particular fox, or is this actually common and other researchers have just missed this because it happens so fast? We’re keeping a close eye on Bertha in particular, hoping that time will sort this question out.

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2 thoughts on “The rabbit incident.

  1. kjmacleod

    Interesting! Would be cool to find out if it was mostly opportunistic – perhaps an ancestral instinct kicking in? Their teeth are specialized for eating insects, right?

    Reply
  2. Aliza

    They are perfectly adapted for insects — their jaw muscles and number of teeth are geared towards it. I would assume this is opportunistic, but what a surprise that it was actually effective with a prey animal of that size!

    Reply

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