Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

While working in the yard this afternoon weeding flower beds and edge trimming, I noticed a rabbit nearby feeding in the tall grass of my neighbors field.  I went in the house got my camera and snapped two photos before he hopped into thick cover.

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I think this rabbit is a juvenile, rather than a breeding adult, as the body features suggest the rabbit is a youngster, with some growing to do.  The eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) is a long-eared rodent that has ever-growing front incisors.  His hind feet are longer than the front, and it therefore hops while running.  It is densely-furred and typically is 15 to 18-inches long and weighs between 2 and 4-pounds, with females (does) being heavier than males (bucks).

Rabbits have sharp hearing and a keen sense of smell.  The eyes are set well back on the sides of the head, allowing the ability to monitor a wide field of view, alert to attack from ground level and above.  They feed at dawn, dusk and in the evening, and enjoy basking in the daytime sun.

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Rabbits will rarely be found in the woods, as they are an edge, field species preferring old-field conditions, meadows and weedy fields.  Their home range is from 2.5 to seven acres, and will stay within that area, knowing it very well (i.e. escape routes and cover).  They can run up to 18 mph.  During the summer months they can eat 40% of their body weight in grass per day, including the Burchick’s garden vegetables.

Eastern cottontails have up to seven litters per annum, producing up to 25 pups per year.  Does usually visit their nest only twice a day to feed young (nursing milk), usually at dawn and dusk.  The average life span of a rabbit is only one-year, as they are the food source for all manner of predators.  In captivity a cottontail can live upwards of 10-years.

 

 

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