The Case of the Headless Bunnies


A cottontail rabbit. Image courtesy of

Almost every day, I walk Buddy the Wonderdog in the woods by my home. This past summer, I was creeped out to see two dead rabbits on the edge of the woods. The incidents happened at separate times but in almost the same locations. The rabbits’ heads were gone, but much of their bodies was still there.

Then yesterday, I saw a headless rabbit again along a different edge of the woods. It lay in the snow with its fur ruffled at the beginning of the trailhead — almost as if someone had placed it there on purpose. A bloody mangled mess of muscle marked where its head and one of its legs had been. No animal tracks led to or from the body. It was as if the rabbit dropped from the sky.


I finally got curious enough to investigate. I searched the internet for “animals that eat rabbit heads.” I came up with a story from the Toronto Star in Canada that described the horror some schoolchildren felt when they found headless bunnies near their schoolyard. The children thought a person with evil intentions decapitated the rabbits.

However, people familiar with the ways of wild animals responded that the bunnies were the work of an owl, not a Satanic Cult. They explained that owls can’t carry the whole rabbit, so they only take the head.

That’s the same explanation my woods-wise friends gave me when I described the gruesome scene from my dog walks. Also, brains are made out of fat, so I suppose owls get more energy from eating them than from eating other parts of a rabbit.

Similar to the situation mentioned in the news article, the rabbits’ bodies I saw this summer were near the same location each time. I think that makes sense. Animals tend to hang out in the same places. If an owl found a rabbit in a certain place one time, it must be a good place for rabbits, so they are likely to hunt there again.

The lack of tracks also makes the case for an owl doing the killing (or some other type of raptor) versus a human or an animal. The owl attacked from above, so of course it wouldn’t leave tracks.

I am glad to learn that the headless bunnies are just a case of nature taking its course, and not the work of twisted humans. But I am still sorta creeped out.