Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 64

"Mountain Rabbits" Remembered

A

S I NEARED hunting age in the mid-1960s, my father and his friends took
me on, to my mind then, some grueling grouse hunts. They followed our setter
around boulder and ledge, through grape, laurel, greenbrier and slash atop Chestnut
and Laurel ridges, or through the steep Youghiogheny gorge in eastern Fayette County.
Dad and his cohorts were grouse hunters but grew up on game and
garden-yield in the 1930s' darker days. So, if a gray squirrel scampered
or a cottontail should bolt, they shot the happenstance mammal. After
all; they could hit grouse - sometimes.
I remember, particularly, assembling around their rabbit kills.
"That's a mountain rabbit," someone would assert, pointing out to
me what he said was a darker coat and shorter ears than the "country
rabbits" from lowland fields below and west. I'd seen too few rabbits
of any kind up close to know the difference but the hunter's approving
nod and repeating, "Yep, mountain rabbit," seemed significant.
I sensed even then that their confident knowledge stemmed from rooted association
with wild things of the rough highlands. Where else could it come from? Someone
had taught them to know a mountain rabbit in the hand, and someone before that
taught their teacher.
Even so, I never fully credited my mentors' observational skill, their informal
zoological acumen until decades later when I learned that science now considers
the Appalachian cottontail a separate species (Sylvilagus obscurus), distinct from
the Eastern cottontail of suburbs and farms, and even the New England cottontail
with which it was long taxonomically lumped. I'd bet those "mountain rabbits" my
father kicked out of greenbrier tangles on grouse hunts were authentic Appalachians.
Biologists know Appalachian cottontails live, sparsely, in disjunct swaths of mountaintop thicket from Pennsylvania to Alabama's northern plateau. The International
Union for the Conservation of Nature rates it "Near Threatened."
I was pleased to read in the January issue of this publication that Game Commission biologists are studying Appalachian cottontails in Pennsylvania.
Despite subtle differences in pelage and size, the most scientifically foolproof
way to identify an Appalachian cottontail is by measuring its skull and examining
various bone sutures there. Biologists will soon make a cooperator-appeal, asking
hunters to submit rabbit skulls for study.
This needed work presents a dilemma. On one hand I'd like to tromp those same
ridge tops in hopes of shooting a rabbit, then contribute its skull to the laudable cause
of knowledge and conservation.
But in a different light, I'd balk now at removing even one rabbit
from those high, cold laurel snarls where they've always belonged.
But that's just me, remembering "mountain rabbits."
64



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016

Contents
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - Intro
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - Cover1
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - Cover2
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - A
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - B
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - C
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - D
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - Contents
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 2
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 3
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 4
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 5
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 6
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 7
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 8
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 9
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 10
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 11
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 12
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 13
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 14
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 15
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 16
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 17
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 18
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 19
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 20
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 21
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 22
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 23
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 24
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 25
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 26
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 27
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 28
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 29
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 30
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 31
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 32
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 33
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 34
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 35
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 36
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 37
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 38
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 39
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 40
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 41
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 42
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 43
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 44
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 45
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 46
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 47
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 48
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 49
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 50
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 51
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 52
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 53
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 54
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 55
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 56
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 57
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 58
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 59
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 60
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 61
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 62
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 63
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - 64
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - Cover3
Pennsylvania Game News - March 2016 - Cover4
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