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Bemoaning the loss of the New England Cottontail:

CONCORD, N.H. — More than 50 years ago, New England Cottontail rabbits were plentiful from New Hampshire’s Lakes Region to the Seacoast.

Today, wildlife biologists believe there are fewer than 100 of the small brown rabbits in a state that has seen the sharpest declines in New England.

Biologists blame the loss of habitat — patches of thickets in younger forests — and they are working across the region to create a hospitable environment for the rabbits.

“They’re the poster child for the loss of shrubland habitat,’’ said Steven Fuller, a wildlife biologist with the state Fish and Game Department.

Last year, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut received federal grants to help preserve the cottontail. Since then, teams of state and federal agencies have been stepping up efforts locally and are working together in the region to control and create new habitat for the rabbits.

The Rangewide New England Cottontail Initiative is focusing on areas targeted for conservation and restoration on public and private land with plans to branch out to Rhode Island, New York, and Maine.

New Hampshire and Maine — another state with a dramatic decline in the New England Cottontail — are working with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation on separate restoration projects.

Regular port-swillers will know of Robbo’s longstanding detestation of cute widdle bunnywabbits, those guerillas of the garden, those freeloaders of the flowerbeds, those pirates of the perennials, those hellspawn of the herb pots.   They will also recall Robbo’s intermittent, exasperated threats to start shooting and his fondness for daydreaming about sticking the head of one on a stake and nailing its pelt to the garden gate as a warning against the others.

Thus, you may imagine his opinion upon reading that somebody not only thinks it worth counting how many goddam cottontails there are in New England, but also thinks it worth spending tax money to increase those numbers.

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May I brag just a little bit? I may? Why thankee – Most indulgent.

All I wanted to say was that the eldest gel’s softball team went to 8-0-1 last night, locking up first place and securing a bye in the first round of the tourney to follow the end of the regular season (which has three games left).  We played the team that tied us last time we met and, unlike the previous bout, had just enough time in the bottom of the final inning for our first two batters to get aboard and to be driven in on a walk-off single.

I really, really didn’t think we were going to pull it off, but the great thing about this particular group of gels is that they never give up – fully half of our wins have been of the come-from-behind variety, although we don’t usually leave it so late in the game.

The other great thing about them is that they all pull their weight.  It’s true that we have an ace pitcher (the manager’s daughter) who, when she’s on fire, is practically unhittable, but she by no means carries the team.  So although she was largely out of gas last evening, everyone else stepped up.  The winning single, for instance, was hit by a very quiet and stolid girl in the middle of teh line-up.  Our fastest runner got hit squarely on the shoulder by a wild throw but refused to come out of the game.  And although the eldest gel is the team’s bunting expert, our manager had her swinging away last night and she went two for two with a pair of doubles.

I was reflecting this morning on the way the relationships among the players and between players and coaches change as the season progresses.  At the beginning, it’s all very cautious, all smiles and half-joking comments and criticisms and “We’re just here to have fun.”  But as time goes by, we begin to push harder and harder and to take things more seriously.  For example, I serve as bench coach during the games.  Early on, I was pretty easy-going about rotating offense and defense.  But last evening, as we went into the bottom of the last inning down by one run and I could practically hear the clock ticking against us, I achieved something close to Senator Opal-like paroxisms¹ of “Come on! Come on! Come ON!!!” as I hustled the gels off the field and got our lead batter on deck.  I like to think this was part of my modest little contribution to the win.

Anyway, I’m proud as all get out of the entire team.  And they, rightly, are pretty durn proud of themselves, too.

(I’d tell you about the latest from the youngest gel’s club, except that just before our game Friday evening was due to start, the skies darkened, the sirens went off and we were forced to beat a retreat into the snack bar, there to watch quarter-sized hail come down for a while.  Oh, well. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes it rains.)

¹ Senator Ambrose Opal, that is.  Spot the quote and no sneaky googling.  But if you haven’t heard of him, then I very strongly recommend that you read this.

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