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why do rabbits dig holes then fill them in

Okay, this is just a story about my experience the other day. It's not life changing. It's not political. It won't help your marriage or improve your theology. But it has me baffled, so maybe, just maybe, someone out there can suggest an explanation for what I saw. The other day I was in the back yard getting ready to fill the birdfeeders. Now, my yard here in the desert is completely fenced in with a minimum of 6' high fencing, and my yard has no grass. It is a desert landscape, which means dirt covered by rocks. So as I was going to the side yard to get the birdseed, I noticed a hole had been dug in the side yard along the wall. I took a closer look. It was a brand new hole -- the dirt was still damp -- and it was maybe 3" in diameter. I couldn't see the end of the hole. My wife, my neighbor, and I all puzzled about what it could be. A coyote could make the hole, but couldn't get into the yard. A rabbit could make the hole, but would likely have to travel a ways from the only possible entrance.


A squirrel could make the hole and could get into the yard easily, so that's what I figured it was. I was wrong. Just before bed, I took a peek out the window with a flashlight and caught the culprit at work. It was a small cottontail rabbit. It was busily digging away at the hole. Mystery solved. How it got into the yard I wasn't sure, but it was definitely a rabbit. The next morning I looked again and it was still working the hole. I could see little bursts of dirt shooting out from behind as it tunneled further in. I went about my business. At lunch time I took another look. and the hole was gone. I don't mean somewhat gone. I mean there was no hint that the hole had ever been there. The spot where the hole had been was completely filled and the rock that had been over it was back over it. There was no sign of turned earth, no bare spots, nothing that would indicate that there had been anything there at all. And the rabbit was still there working on it.


The little thing was picking up rocks in its mouth and moving them around. I went outside to see where it would go from there, and it was gone, teaching me that rabbits can fit through much smaller spaces than I realized. So, I'm stuck with this mystery. A wild cottontail rabbit came into my yard and dug a hole which it then covered so perfectly that it was as if it had never been there. Why? If it had been a squirrel, I would figure it was hiding food. Rabbits don't do that. If it had been a turtle, I would figure it had laid eggs. Rabbits don't do that. If the rabbit had just decided that the hole wasn't going to work (what with running into the wall and all the rock in the soil), he might abandon it, but I can't figure out why he would fill it in. I can imagine an anthropomorphic rabbit who thought, "Well, this hole won't work for me. If I leave it the way it is, the owner might be mad, so I'd better put it back the way I found it. " But rabbits don't do that. I cannot think of any sort of logical explanation why a rabbit would do what this one did.


As I said, it's just a funny little story. It won't change your life. It won't change mine. But I'm naturally curious and cannot figure out a reason for the behavior. If any of you have an idea, let me know. I'm puzzled.
I have a harlequin rabbit who has been dropped off into my backyard a year ago (I still don't know to this day who the culprit was), and this year I've begun to notice that this rabbit has dug a hole in a certain spot a second time. The first time the rabbit dug a hole in that same spot was maybe more than a month ago. And on the same day he dug those holes, he also covered it up to the point where you wouldn't know if a rabbit hole was dug there. The point to this thread is that I want to know why that rabbit does it. Is it a normal behavior for rabbits? Why do rabbits dig holes and then cover them up? I would really appreciate it if somebody could give me some answers to this mystery.

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