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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Here Comes Peter Cottontail

The Berry Prairie has become home to approximately 60 species of native grasses, forbs and shrubs, as well as 8 orders of insects (according to Master's student, Kyle Bolenbaugh, who is studying the green roof).  Of course humans frequent the roof regularly, but this winter we added one more vertebrate species to our Celebrity Spotlight list: a rabbit!

These hippity hoppity little buggers are pretty darn cute.  And of course we love to brag that the roof is a biodiversity hotspot (ha!).  However, they happened to have destroyed every single one of our ball cacti on the roof, putting them on our black list for eternity. 

In all of the red circles there used to be a beautiful cactus.  Now there are only divots to honor our fallen succulents.

Now, cacti are not typically a rabbit's favorite snack.  I am certain you can imagine why.  Spiny, tough, blah.  But they do offer desperate animals one necessary resource, and that is water.

Winters in Wyoming tend to be long and windy, and we don't usually get a ton of snow.  So rabbits and other organisms that are active throughout the winter need an accessible (aka non-frozen and above ground) water source.  If there's no snow nearby, and no other puddles or rivers, the water pooled inside a cactus might be the only or best option.  Despite the spines. 

The photo above shows the poor amputated cactus, post rabbit attack.  The photo below, the former site of a cactus.

Moral of this story: not even heavily armed organisms are safe against the onslaught of thirsty rabbits.

Written by Brenna Marsicek, Biodiversity Institute

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