Eastern Cottontail Paw Print

 

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit:

The Cottontail is a medium-sized mammal with long ears, large hind feet, smaller front legs, a short fluffy tail, and soft fur. The ears and hind legs are proportionally smaller than those of a Jackrabbit. The color varies from reddish to grayish brown, peppered with black on the upper body; the tail shows a fluff of white. Females tend to weigh more than males, with an average adult weight of 2-3 pounds. Their lifespan in the wild can reach around 5 years. However, Cottontails are a favorite food staple of carnivores and omnivores, thus, they have many predators. If an area has had a very mild winter, and adult female can have up to 8 litters in one year. Litters contain 2-6 babies.


Eastern Cottontail Rabbit
   
Determining the age of the rabbit:

Newborns   Pink bellies, sleek dark fur (like seals)
5-6 Days   Fully furred
7-8 Days  Ears stand up
10 Days  Eyes open
12-14 Days  Able to hop, nibbling solid food
21-28 Days  Ears 1" long - 2 finger width, body fist-sized and covers most of an open hand and able to live independently


Baby Bunny - eyes not open yet -
Ears not standing up - Less than a week old
   
Geographic Range:

Throughout the eastern & midwestern part of the United States into Mexico.
   

Food Preferences:

Vegetarians - Bluegrass, wheat and white clover are favorites. Other choices include red clover, timothy, crabgrass, alfalfa, soybeans, rye, and whatever greens you plant in your garden. In winter, waste corn, winter wheat, bud sprouts, bark and twigs are eaten.

The Eastern Cottontail is primarily found east of the Rocky Mountain Range, north from southern Canada and south through Central America.

Cottontails are mostly silent animals, but may give a shrill, high-pitched cry when scared, caught or fighting. Females have calls for their young; hind feet may be thumped as a signal. Cottontails are adaptable animals, and may be found almost anywhere there is some cover. They seem to prefer an open brushy or forested habitat that provides dense cover. They do not dig burrows, but do tend to live in a "form" which is a depression worn or scratched out of the earth, in a brushy pile or thicket of grass.

Cottontails are active mostly at night and early in the morning; their prime feeding periods are following sunrise and late afternoon/early evening. They are fastidious groomers. Cottontails are also very high-strung; if held in captivity, they often die of cage shock.


Baby Bunny - about 2 weeks old
   
Enemies:

Humans, cars, lawnmowers, drought, loss of green lands due to development or changes in agricultural methods, dogs, cats, snakes, coyotes, hawks, owls, crows, minks, foxes, mites, ticks, fleas, parasitic worms, viruses.


Baby Bunnies
   

Discovery of a nest in the yard

The nest is usually a shallow depression in the yard, lined with the mother's fur and covered with grass. It may be inappropriately placed (even in a dog pen or under an outside faucet) or maybe inconveniently placed. It is not easy to relocate the entire nest successfully so please, mow around the nest for a few weeks.... baby rabbits are in the nest such a short time.


Newborn Baby Bunnies in a nest
   
The nest has been abandoned -- No sign of the mother
Mother rabbit is probably close by, but she visits the nest only at night and early morning. To nurse her young, it is necessary for her to straddle the nest. Because she cannot hide herself in so shallow a nest, she exposes herself and the young to predation and therefore feeds her babies only under cover of darkness. Because her milk is so rich and fatty, her young are nursed once or twice each night.
 
   
To determine whether or not the mother is returning to the nest:
If the eyes are still closed, place two pieces of string in an "X" on top of the nest. Check the position of the string the following morning. If the string has been disturbed, it can be assumed that the mother rabbit has visited during the night. If not, please let us know. If the eyes of the young are open, the placement of string on top of the nest is not effective because, after the animals are ten days old, they may slip out of the nest at its edge (never disturbing the string) and travel to mother's nearby location to nurse. If you really believe that the mother is no longer around (i.e. dead young are found in the nest), please call the wildlife rehab clinic. 636-677-3670

Bunnies that can survive on thier own
(yes they look small, but fully able for surviving with out intervention)
3- 4 weeks old
   
The nest has been disturbed by children, dogs, cats or crows
If children have discovered the nest and have handled the young, rub vanilla extract on your hands, and place a drop of vanilla on each rabbit head and tail. Return the young to the nest, reassemble nesting material, and sprinkle a few drops on the top of the nest. This will confuse the mothers scent. If the nest is being disturbed by a dog, cat or crow, and the young have not been injured, cover the nest with a wheelbarrow or lawnmower during the day and uncover it at dusk to keep the predators away from the nest and allow the mother to feed during the night. If the rabbits have been injured, please call the wildlife rehab clinic. 636-677-3670
 
   
The nest has flooded and live young are found nearby
Dry them off carefully and contain them in a box with soft cloths to nestle in. Keep them warm with a heating pad on the lowest setting placed under a portion of the box. Tiny rabbit young are unable to control their body temperature and if they are cold to the touch, some source of warmth must be provided. Replace them in the nest at dusk if the nest has drained sufficiently so that the mother rabbit can resume her care. Use the vanilla treatment before replacing the young. Mother rabbit is far better able to care for her young than a well-meaning rescuer.