Coney Island was named Conyne Eylandt –Rabbit Island– by the Dutch after the wild rabbits that lived here in the 17th century, but for the past 1-1/2 years the only coney left in Coney has been a Californian breed of domestic rabbit living under the boardwalk. A few days ago ATZ received news of its capture from William Leung, whose previous rescue of a rabbit he would name Steeplechase after Coney’s famed park was featured in “Coney Island Bunny Rescued After 21 Days on The Run” (January 18, 2014).
The second bunny who ran off during the bulldozing of the Coney Island Community Garden was rescued on May 27 after surviving for 16 months and two winters under the Coney Island Boardwalk! It’s an amazing story of the compassion and tenacity of both William and Tatyana Leonova, a caretaker of the Boardwalk’s feral cats, who fed the rabbit vegetables as well as the dry food on which it managed to survive through the winters.
“It’s been almost a year and half now since Steeplechase was caught and has been living with me,” writes William. “She has bonded with my two little ones as seen in a pic taken a month ago, from left to right: Duchess, Chad, and Steeplechase. But there is another story to tell about Steeplechase’s siblings.” Since the garden was bulldozed in December 2013, William heard there were up to three rabbits in the garden from the time they were babies. In the summer of 2014 he learned of a rabbit sighting in the same general area where Steeplechase was caught and made the trip from his Queens home to investigate.
“But this time of the summer, the grass and brushes were as tall as me, and as I peered through to where the garden used to be, there was no way anything could be seen,” William recalls. “But as luck or fate would have it, Tatyana Leonova, one of the dedicated feral cat care givers passed by and got curious about me poking at the fence. She told me about the sighting of a rabbit running around and said she had been trying to feed it, but didn’t see the rabbit regularly. I asked her if there was a way to trap the rabbit, if they do I will take it.” Tatyana agreed, but as the months passed and winter came to the boardwalk, there was no word.
“When I reached out to Tatyana she said they had not been able to catch the rabbit so I made a trip out in January of 2015 to make an attempt. As soon as food was put down he was in the box eating, he was so hungry in winter cause there was no grass to eat. But as I pulled up the simple trap I had, the rabbit jumped right out and never came back out again.”
“A few more months passed by before an opportunity in between jobs allowed me two weeks off and I started to make attempts to catch the rabbit again. The first day I was able to get it within netting range but I made the mistake of trying to catch it by lifting it up around it instead of over it. Long story short, the net wasn’t big enough and wasn’t positioned right. The net bent under the weight and it got away again. On the second time, I did not see the rabbit.”
“On the third time I went out there, the rabbit was lounging around but out of reach so I decided to set up a live trap. The rabbit was hanging out in an area now that was finally big enough to fit a large size trap through the fence and under a walkway but he didn’t go in to eat the food. So as my vacation ended, I met with the cat caretaker and asked her to help by keep putting food into the the trap so the rabbit would go in to eat from inside and catch it in the act and manually pop the trap.”
“After 5 days and still no luck, Tatyana was getting worried as she thought the rabbit seemed sluggish and was sick but there was nothing I could do, as I was out of ideas. But the very next day, on Wednesday night the 27th of May, I got a series of panicked calls that she had caught the rabbit but couldn’t get the trap out thru the fence.” William drove to Coney Island as soon as he could to fish the trap out.
At home, he fenced off the rescued bunny, which has a severe ear mite infestation, from his other rabbits. “Of course, my rabbits were curious, but the first to show interest was Steeplechase! She looked back at me as if to say, what’s this all about? I cannot be sure if she can remember her sibling after a year and half apart, or if that rabbit was even a sibling, though they are both the same breed.”
The next day he met with a rabbit rescue volunteer to get a dose of medicine for the ear mites. “As I didn’t want to handle it too much and infest my rabbits, I waited until Saturday, the vet visiting day, to find out if it was a girl or boy,” says William. “And it’s a girl! I named her Natalie, after Nathan’s hot dogs. The vet couldn’t do a full exam as she was still not used to human touch so for now she is getting some R & R and her future is hopefully to join my warren but my rabbits have the final say.”
Related Posts on ATZ…
January 8, 2014: Bunny Returns to Bulldozed Coney Island Garden, Kitten Euthanized
September 19, 2013: Photo of the Day: Coney Island Parakeets Go for a Walk
April 1, 2013: Sea Rabbits Swim Ashore in Coney Island, Up For Adoption