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Blue Rabbit Urine

At my work, there is a recurring report from people tracking animals in the snow; a bizarre and lurid claim of blue rabbit urine. After six winters there, I have finally witnessed this first hand. Before seeing the blue stain on the snow myself, I was frankly skeptical, and assumed that people were seeing something else, and mistaking it for blue rabbit urine.

A quick search turns up one article on the phenomenon--posted by an "urban field ecologist," no less--from the previous winter. You can read it here: http://nuthatch.typepad.com/ba/2005/12/blue_smurf_pee_.html Another reference to this, with anecdotal experimental information is here: http://www.ont-woodlot-assoc.org/sw_nonfibre_redskies.html

The gist of it, is this: Our native rabbits (the eastern cottontail) have been browsing on an alien shrub (European buckthorn). The buckthorn contains a chemical that passes out with the urine, which comes out yellowish to brownish, but after exposure to sunlight, turns a lovely blue color. This effect is visible, of course, because the urine in question is suspended in snow. You would think that the cottontails are eating the berries of the buckthorn, because they are purplish, but according to the second reference above, the effect occurs after the rabbits eat other parts of the plant. Buckthorn holds its leaves long after most native deciduous plants, and in winter cottontails subsist largely on bark and twigs. The second reference also emphasizes that buckthorn is not a favored browse plant of North American herbivores, and that they have to be driven to feed on it out of desperation. I'm not sure about that; my workplace has enough Norway maple saplings to sustain a cottontail factory farm.

So, without further ado (okay, one doo) here is some blue rabbit urine:

Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
hissilliness
Feb. 21st, 2007 10:57 pm (UTC)
Damn, you have the best journal ever.
urbpan
Feb. 21st, 2007 11:17 pm (UTC)
I cover all the most important topics!!
cottonmanifesto
Feb. 21st, 2007 11:01 pm (UTC)
what. the. fuck?
iheartoothecae
Feb. 21st, 2007 11:24 pm (UTC)
Dude. I want blue pee.
urbpan
Feb. 21st, 2007 11:28 pm (UTC)
There's a potentially dangerous chemical you can eat to do it.
ndozo
Feb. 22nd, 2007 04:34 am (UTC)
If you would settle for blue poo just eat a blue slushee or two first thing in the morning and wait a little while. I almost took a kid to the hospital the first time that happened. In days of yore I think if the bunny peed blue it meant you were pregnant or something.
baniszew
Feb. 21st, 2007 11:29 pm (UTC)
My dad always told me the blue snow was from aircraft accidentally emptying their septic tanks over inhabited areas. Now, I generally know better than to believe everything my dad tells me, but I never did have a better explanation, until now.
vampyrusgirl
Feb. 21st, 2007 11:45 pm (UTC)
If it weren't for the poo and the stick, it looks like something from a Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine!
corivax
Feb. 22nd, 2007 02:20 am (UTC)
Hee! That's great.
girlsnqueers
Feb. 22nd, 2007 01:40 pm (UTC)
Technicolor Rabbit Urine
I used to have a pet rabbit, so I can say from experience that, depending on which minerals the rabbit is getting from its food, brown and red urine is pretty common--which can freak out folks new to the whole pet rabbit experience.
plethorax
Feb. 22nd, 2007 05:37 pm (UTC)
That's awesome - I wonder if European Buckthorn has the same chemical in it that woad does? Woad also needs an alkaline environment and exposure to oxygen in order to turn blue.
(Anonymous)
Jan. 9th, 2008 02:36 pm (UTC)
Blue Snow amid Deer Tracks?
I wonder if the same phenomenon is responsible for my sightings of several patches of blue snow amid deer tracks in the woods behind my house in New Hampshire? Although I wasn't looking for them and may have missed the signs, I didn't notice any rabbit scat, just deer pellets separate from the blue patches, nor did I notice any rabbit tracks.
(Anonymous)
Mar. 21st, 2008 02:37 pm (UTC)
blue pee
thanks for the answer, we have a lot of invasive buckthorn in Wisconsin so this does make sense. I have seen a lot of blue pee in my yard but I didn't know if it was the rabbits, deer or squirrels.
gipsieee
Jan. 6th, 2010 02:30 am (UTC)
The rabbits that live in my yard (in MD) have bright pink urine. Do you know of a similar botanical cause for this phenomenon?
urbpan
Jan. 6th, 2010 10:28 am (UTC)
Nope, but reddish and orange urine are pretty normal for rabbits, so diluted into snow that could look pink.
(Anonymous)
Jan. 17th, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC)
blue pee
hey!

Glad I ran across this article. We have bright blue stains in our yard, and I was starting to worry that some wild critters had gotten into some poisonous chemicals nearby. i'd seen orangish rabbit pee before, but doubted that an animal could naturally pee such a brillant blue. Really interesting stuff.
Thanks
(Anonymous)
Jan. 21st, 2010 02:48 pm (UTC)
wow.. well, now I know what that is in the back yard..

THANKS!
I guess I have to retract my belief in smurfs.
(Anonymous)
Jan. 24th, 2010 12:23 pm (UTC)
Blue Snow
I am been wondering for year what the heck all these blue pee spots were from. We live in a wooded area, lot of rabbits and squirrels. I am not sure about this scrub though as I don't remember seeing something like it or anything that had fruit on it. Could this also come from eating acorns? We have plenty of those and I know those have a harsh chemical in them as well? Just curious
(Anonymous)
Feb. 20th, 2010 03:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Blue Snow
Glad to know it's not poisoning! The rabbits in my yard must eat a lot of buckthorn! :0)
Lois Woitas Vetter
Mar. 20th, 2011 01:28 am (UTC)
I have seen several spots of bright blue urine
Thank you for your answer. I kept seeing bright blue spots in my yard that looked like a blue sports drink stain. I live in a rural subdivision and have all kinds of wildlife around so I wondered what it was.
Need any new pictures?
Thanks Again
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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