The arena in the snow was white on white, but the agon was plain enough, if bloodless. While it was no lion bringing down a wildebeest, this was on a golf course in a fair-sized city, not on the tundra nor on the veldt.
On cross-country skis this morning, I had already felt pleased by yet another day out. We’ve had four feet in the past month. Also, unusual for a place with a steady moderating breeze from the Atlantic, the air has been cold enough to keep skiable amounts on the ground. That’s been fine and I wasn’t expecting a Mark Trail-style nature lesson as well.
Yet, the tiny rabbit tracks on the thick cover made me look. To the left and right, I could see larger tracks of big rabbits. The paddle-like pair of rear feet had smaller, rounder front paw prints between. The small tracks showed a bunny wee enough and light enough that the front prints barely left marks.
Visually following those tracks toward the nearby copse (and the burrows at the base of various trees), I saw that they didn’t go the entire 100 feet or so. Skiing over, I saw the rabbit-sad/hawk-glad story.
There was a bowl maybe two and one-half feet across. On each side were clear feather marks. The hawk has surprised the rabbit, grasped it, and struggled briefly with it, certainly leaving with its meal in its claws.
In the bowl were the dents left by the fight, but again, no blood. Likely the rabbit was still alive when the hawk took wing.
I confess that I regretted not having a camera handy. Moreover, tracks I had cut with my skis yesterday afternoon had blown over with snow, leaving just concave grooves. This also suggested that as all the rabbit tracks were clear and the wing marks still visible, that the raid had happened not long before I noticed. If I tried to return to document the scene, there would be nothing conclusive left.
Were I a preacher, except in the informal way so many writers and bloggers are, I might hold forth on the transience of life. Only in a few places do we humans have such natural predators as sharks or tigers. It’s fair to say that we are most in danger from other humans.
I’ve had many friends and acquaintances die from diseases or car wrecks or street violence, but none killed suddenly for food. The closest I can think of is a young, brilliant, beautiful musician who died freakishly when a horse out West leapt over a rise onto her car’s windshield. There too, no one was hunting anyone.
Even with no gigantic critters hunting us as we go about our business, there are reasons for the prevalence of the cliché about the fragility of life.