EASTERN COTTONTAIL RABBIT

 

Eastern Cottontail Rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus) range from reddish brown to gray, but all feature the distinctive "cotton ball" tail for which they are named.  Cottontail Rabbits are called that because the underside of their tails -- which curls up against the lower back -- is white, just like a small piece of cotton.

Cottontail Rabbits are hunted by many predators and may only live two to three years in the wild. To try and stay alive, Cottontail Rabbits learn early on how to hide and burrow effectively – under bushes, in tunnels or any cavities.

 

They browse at night on grasses and herbs and are fond of garden fare such as peas and, of course, lettuce. In winter, their diet becomes a bit coarse and consists of bark, twigs, and buds. During the day, cottontails often remain hidden in vegetation. If spotted, they flee from predators with a zigzag pattern, sometimes reaching speeds of up to 29 km an hour.

 

Females give birth in shallow ground dens to young so helpless that perhaps only 15 % survive their first year. Fortunately, rabbits can breed three or four times every year and produce one to nine young each time. Young rabbits mature quickly and are self-sufficient after only four or five weeks. Females are sexually mature after only four months, so populations are able to grow with staggering speed.

 

Eastern Cottontail Rabbits are almost completely mute animals. They communicate with each other by thumping with their back feet against the ground. However, they have been known for screaming and screeching quite loudly if caught by a predator. Another interesting fact is that Eastern Cottontail Rabbits tend to have a quite small home range. Most rabbits live in an area that's about 9 acres (about 3.6 hectares) in size.

 

Eastern Cottontail Rabbits were introduced to British Columbia and across western North America as a source of food in the 1920’s. Now, they are the most wide-spread rabbit, overlapping distributions of seven other rabbit and six other hare species.