Editor's Column: Rabbits test Whidbey Island drivers

On the way to work Monday morning it was just me and the rabbits. Somehow, I managed to arrive at my destination without running one over.

With everyone else still tucked in bed due to the Memorial Day holiday, I headed out at 6 a.m. Mine was the only car on the road for many miles. Which was why all the rabbits were so delighted to see me.

Something in their genetics makes Whidbey Island rabbits need to jump out in front of large objects coming down the trail. This may have started thousands of years ago when woolly mammoths roamed the island and rabbits got a big kick out of frightening them. Perhaps a bunch of rabbits would laugh uproariously at scaring a mammoth half to death, and happy rabbits breed faster than sad rabbits. As a result, the jump-in-front-of-the-big-thing gene was passed on, which wasn’t good for rabbits when woolly mammoths went extinct, to eventually be replaced on the trails by cars and trucks. They’re much faster, but despite the increased risk rabbits still seem to delight in scaring drivers.

Rabbits were jumping out at me in bunches on my way to work. Since sun-up, they’d been waiting for a car to pass by. By 6 a.m. they were anxious and ready to leap, so the road ahead of me looked like it was paved in fur. Swerve left, swerve right, slam on the brakes, inch ahead, leave a wake of laughing bunnies in the rear view mirror. Occasionally I’d pass a greasy spot in the road depicting some poor rabbit that wasn’t so fortunate a day or two before, but on this day all the rabbits lived, thanks to my alert driving. I’ve run over rabbits and it always makes me feel bad, hearing the thunk and trying to look away from the quivering leg.

On most days I take the bus and leave the rabbit dodging to the Island Transit driver. This time of year it’s a herky-jerky, swervy ride to work as the driver strives to miss the rabbits. Newspapers fly out of the hands of the few people who still read and iPod buds pop out of ear canals. Never sit in front of a person with dentures during rabbit season, or you might be bitten in the back of the head. No buses on Memorial Day, so I had to hazard the furry road myself.

I sometimes worry that our Whidbey Island rabbits will fall into the hands of terrorists. Strap a bomb on them and with their instinct for jumping in front of vehicles, and IRD’s (Improvised Rabbit Devices) would bring traffic to a halt nationwide. That’s why Homeland Security should check all vehicles for rabbits before they leave the island. Otherwise, we risk a rash of debilitating hare-ey kari bomber attacks that’ll make 9/11 look like a picnic.

We’ve got a whole summer ahead of us with rabbits on the road. Try to miss them, but if you can’t don’t feel too bad. The eagles and crows appreciate your failed efforts. It’s nature’s way.

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