Thursday, April 1, 2010

Nature Guide: Eastern Cottontail

The rabbit we see most often in our area is the Eastern Cottontail. Easily recognized by its long gray ears and fluffy white tail, it is one of the most common species in North America. To celebrate Easter, our Nature Guide Jon Latimer tells us a little more about this beloved bunny.

"The Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) has a chunky round body covered with brownish or grayish fur and large hind feet. The fur on its underside is white and there is often a rusty patch on its white tail.

"Eastern Cottontails can be found in meadows near shrubby areas or thickets where they can find protection. They hide during the day but are active at night and easiest to see around dusk or dawn. In spring and summer they eat grasses, fruits and vegetables. In winter they feed on twigs and the bark of trees such as dogwood or maple.

"The Eastern Cottontail's large brown eyes and long ears help them avoid predators. When chased, they can run up to 18 mph. They usually run in a zigzag pattern, making it more difficult for a predator to follow.

"Female Eastern Cottontails give birth to three or four litters each year between March and September. She builds a nest in the ground lined with grass and fur and will fiercely protect her territory. Each litter consists of four to seven babies, known as kits. Kits are weaned after three weeks and leave the nest after about seven weeks. By the time they are three months old, the kits are mature enough to mate."


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