This morning, as we drove back down the lane from a short visit into town, we saw a man on the side of the road and he had a fairly large box in his hand. We usually know everyone coming down the lane, so I asked the farmer who he was. "The ferret man after the rabbits" was the reply. It made me shudder.
Every so often one of our neighbouring farmers gets the man with the ferrets to come round and clear a few of the rabbits off his land. I find this killing of rabbits hard to take, but I do realise that in Summer, when the cows are out to pasture, ten rabbits are said to eat as much grass as one cow. And of course we all know that rabbits breed like....well, rabbits.
I'm sure that ferrets kill cleanly so it is probably a quick death, maybe quicker than the gun - after all some rabbits will probably only be maimed by a gun shot and will die in agony. That other killer, myxymatosis (which we didn't see round here last year thank goodness) is a most cruel death.
But we, here on the farm, have our own hunters. Our two farm cats, Blackie and Creamy, are great hunters of rabbits and in the Spring they rarely eat any of the food put down for them - and the floor of the hay barn can be littered with the tiny rabbit skins of baby rabbits - they seem to eat every morsel but the skin itself. But at least they eat their kill.
That other hunter around the farm is the sparrow hawk. The female comes round most days (she is considerably larger than the male, so it is easy to recognise her). She will come swiftly, swooping over the holly hedge by the bird table. Mostly she will get nothing, but now and again there will be the tell- tale feathers of a blue-tit or even a collared dove. But, again, the death will be swift.
John's blog today shows him with a sick egret in his arms yesterday and this morning the bird is dead. I can't help thinking that a death by any means other than a slow death in a strange place would have been better. So sad that John couldn't save it though.