There are volunteers at our Refuge who have told me they’ve never seen a LKMR. I think that is for two reasons: 1) LKMRs are few in number and very skittish on Big Pine and 2) You have to know where to look! They aren’t as common as Eastern cottontails, like I know back in New York. And they certainly are too shy to be in your yard nibbling. Where I have seen them most, is driving down a dead end gravel road at dusk, or I surprise them as I come around a corner on the road, and they’ve been grazing on the shoulder. As soon as they think they’ve been spotted… off they go!
Fun fact: In the 1980′s Hugh Hefner’s corporation donated money to their research and conservation efforts, thus their subspecies name: hefneri!
Premium habitat includes “higher” elevation (so in the Keys, only several feet above sea level, usually the center of an island), freshwater wetlands, hardwood hammocks, and they require dense grasses and sedges for feeding, cover, and nesting. The few times I’ve seen them out in the open, dense cover has been only a few bounds away.
I quite enjoy seeing these small rabbits. Some people may say “Oh a rabbit is a rabbit”, but it’s just not true. In Alaska I was captivated by the behaviors and physicality of the snowshoe hares, and in NY, even though they’re very common, I love to learn about the Eastern cottontails. A past professor of mine, John (he who inspired me to blog!), just recently wrote an blog entry about small mammal live-trapping. He began by explaining that most of us, when asked to think about mammals, immediately think of our pets, farm animals, or zoo animals! In fact, this is a skewed representation of our mammals on Earth. Most of our critters are small and maybe don’t seem as “cool” as glamorous as lions, and tigers, and bears… I do like to learn about them, photograph them, and be allowed to see them in their native habitats.
A wonderful resource, although perhaps a little dated, is the Lower Keys March Rabbit Species Profile, that was written by biologists at the Refuge I’m interning at: Lower Keys Marsh Rabbits.
Since I arrived here, I’ve been trying and trying to capture my own camera trap images or videos of these bunnies. I was finally successful, although the video isn’t the greatest. I will share it though, because darn it! I finally got one!