If you’ve ever seen a cottontail rabbit, you can probably guess how it got its name. Their tails look just like cotton balls. Aside from their trademark tails, eastern cottontail rabbits have big ears and big eyes. Their back feet are also very long.
There are many kinds of cottontail rabbits, but the eastern cottontail is the most common one. It is the only wild rabbit that lives in our area.
You may be familiar with these rabbits because you’ve seen them in your neighborhood, but there’s plenty to learn. Here’s some more information about these common critters.
These rabbits are herbivores, which means they eat only plants. Their diet changes throughout the seasons. In the summer, they eat mostly green plants like grasses and clover. In the winter, their diet shifts mostly to woody plants like twigs and bark, because it is more readily available.
Baby cottontail rabbits are called kittens, and they are born hairless and blind. They are tiny when they are born, weighing less than one-tenth of a pound. They grow fast and reach their full adult size by the time they are 6 months old! A full-size cottontail rabbit weighs between 2 pounds and 4 pounds and is between 15 inches and 19 inches long.
A cottontail rabbit’s fur coat changes color throughout the year. In the spring and summer, their fur is light brown. In late summer, they molt their summer coat and grower a thicker coat for winter. The winter coat is more gray in color. Their bellies and tails stay white all year.
Have you ever seen a cottontail rabbit in your yard? They like open, grassy areas, so they are a common visitor to our yards. They also live in and around parks, grasslands, prairies, meadows and farm fields.
Cottontail rabbits are native to North America, which means this is where they originated. They live in the United States, Mexico and Canada. In the United States, they only live in the eastern half of the country.
Rabbits are crepuscular, which means they are the most active in the hours just after the sun rises and before the sun sets. They normally eat during these hours, although it’s not unusual to see them eating during the middle of the day, especially when the weather is mild and pleasant.
Cottontail rabbits are an important food source for predators like coyotes, foxes and even owls. When rabbit populations decline, the populations of their predators decline too.
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