Friday, May 22, 2009

The Cottontail Rabbit

Do you see this wee little baby of the woods? He is a cottontail rabbit, and when he heard us walking by on the path, he became very still, and blended in with the leaves. He was in the shadowiest place around. I had to lighten this photograph a lot to make him visible to you. We didn't get close. We didn't want to scare him.

Would you like to learn about the cottontail rabbit? I got interested in learning about cottontail rabbits in 1983, and made a little poster about them.

And now, for a closer look at the cottontail rabbit.

Just before her babies are born, the doe, (the mother,) makes a warm nest for them. She digs a round, shallow hole on top of the ground, and lines it with soft, dry grass and fur which she has plucked from her belly.

As soon as the babies are born, the doe leaves them, hiding them beneath a covering of grass and fur. She returns to feed them when the sun goes down, and again when the sun comes up. The babies are called kits.

Cottontail rabbits are born blind and hairless, but they grow very quickly. Within a week, their eyes begin to open, and they nearly double in weight. After two weeks, the babies have a full coat of hair.

The babies start to hop out of the nest. They do not go far, and the doe is always nearby. To build up their strength, they hop around playfully.

They also start to nibble grass and herbs.

After only three weeks, the doe is preparing a nest for new babies, and the little rabbits must go out on their own.

Rabbits like to hide in brush piles, tall grass, or honeysuckle, and along fence rails. By instinct, a rabbit knows when its fur will blend into the background, and when an enemy approaches, it will "freeze" and keep still until the danger is gone, just like the little rabbit we saw in the woods.

Rabbits have many enemies. They are hunted by weasels, bobcats, badgers, birds, cats, dogs, and people. The fox is the rabbit's worst enemy.

If a rabbit cannot hide and an enemy sees it, the cottontail quickly bounds away.

During the summer, food is plentiful for the rabbit. It eats young shoots, grass, fruit which has fallen from trees, and berries. If you have a vegetable garden, you may have a visit from a rabbit.

During the winter, food is scarce, so the rabbit eats bark, twigs, and buds.

In the snow, you can always tell where a rabbit has been.

Copyright 2009 Elizabeth F. Curtin


prettydreamer said...

Lovely Post!

prettydreamer said...

Such a lovely post ...I love your drawings!

Anonymous said...

Just stumbled on a nest of week old cottontails in the backyard today, so was doing research and found your blog. My 2 and 3 year old were inspired by the cute little bunnies and so was I!

Anonymous said...

I would LOve to use the photo you took of the cottontail for a school presentation. So that I can show how well they blend in may I do so?

Beth said...

Yes, you may, Sophie Dixon!