We have been exceedingly busy at Palazzo Rospo. There is too much to tell. I'll hit the highlights and try to post more regularly so I don't get overwhelmed and think "There's no way I can remember/tell it all, so why even bother?" Most of the activity has been with the rabbits, so I'll tell about them.
We had an owl or owls take *all* of our baby rabbits over one or two nights around March 8th. That was probably about 15 kits, as we had two litters (10 kits) running around the colony plus another litter due to make an appearance above ground but I never saw them. The older kits were just a couple of weeks from butchering age, which really ticks me off because we had the expense of feeding them and the effort of caring for them and then an owl family had a major feast thanks to the sweat of our brow.
This is the time of year that owls have their babies, apparently, and so there are lots of hungry mouths to feed. We have LOTS of owls around here. We've seen a huge white one in the daytime - a white diurnal owl suggests asnowy owl but we're much too far south, so maybe a confused barn owl (barn owls are supposed to be nocturnal). We have heard barred owls, hoot owls, and screech owls, and heard/seen others that we can't identify. We hear 3 or 4 of each type at a time. We can hear them calling from different places up and down the valley so we know it's multiple owls.
Fortunately, about a week before the great kit loss of '07, one of the does was collecting straw and taking it into the main burrow beneath a dog-crate half. This usually means kits are going to be born in a day or two. Those kits would be 3.5 weeks old now, and I'm anxiously watching the colony for their appearance.
I put up bird netting where I could, but there are trees in the colony and shrubby things so I couldn't net everywhere. I'm hoping that what I could manage was good enough. The netting was knocked down the second night after I put it in, and it was torn in a couple of places. Since then it hasn't been messed with. I'm hoping that the owls will be deterred and that they haven't found easy access where the trees are. It makes me nervous that I haven't seen those kits yet.
We also had a doe get caked mammary glands - that's where the glands clog up and the milk "backs up" and she gets lumps around her nipples. Some of her lumps have ruptured and scabbed over. She is obviously in distress as she barely hops around and when she does her gait is awkward. The buck was mounting her non-stop and she was trying to get away and whimpering. Now the buck is in solitary confinement in a dog crate on the front porch, and the doe just completed three days of subcutaneous injections of 1/4 cc penicillin. I held her and my husband gave the injections. I luuuuuv him!