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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Seeing red

In "January" of A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold writes: "... where the rabbits have packed down the snow with their tracks, and mottled it with pinkish urinations." I confess that when I first read that line, my brain tried to turn the phrasing into 'pink carnations'. I think my students are just as puzzled.

Well, it turns out that Leopold was being literal. Rabbits CAN have pink and even red colored urine. A simple Google search of "red rabbit urine" reveals numerous concerned pet owners assuming they are seeing blood in their bunny's urine. But it seems the color change is caused by dietary conditions.

Reddish Eastern cottontail urine (Seneca Falls, 2/11)
I was reminded of all this today when I found four different rabbit urines in the back yard (we have a HUGE Eastern cottontail population this year). One was yellow and three were bright red. Unfortunately, the red really doesn't show in the photo. Get out there and look for this phenomenon yourself before the snow is all gone!

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