Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

The Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) is a member of the family Leporidae. It is the most common rabbit species in North America.

Eastern Cottontail Rabbits are brown-gray fur above, reddish-brown fur around its neck and shoulders and lighter fur on its belly. Of course they have large hind feet, long ears and a short fluffy cotton ball like tail, hence the name cottontail.

Eastern Cottontail Rabbits can most often be found in fields and shrubby areas in the eastern and southwestern United States, southern Canada, parts of Mexico and other Central America Countries. Its range expanded north as forests were cleared by settlers. Originally, the Eastern Cottontail was not found in New England, but it has been introduced there and now competes for habitat there with the native New England Cottontail.

Eastern Cottontail Rabbits eat green vegetation such as grasses and clover in summer and bark, buds and twigs in winter. This animal is active at night or just after or during a light rain. Predators such as man, hawks, owls, bobcats, foxes, and coyotes prey heavily on rabbits.

On farms and in gardens, the Eastern Cottontail is usually considered a pest and is often trapped or shot to protect plants.

Males will mate with more than one female. Female rabbits have 2 to 4 large litters of up to 9 young in a year. They build a nest in the ground lined with grass and fur. Young females are often able to breed at 3 months. They mates from February to September. They average 3 litters a year.

After the female rabbit has given birth to her offspring, she can mate again immediately thereafter. The kittens are weaned after only 3 weeks and leave the nest after seven weeks. The babies known as kittens, then reach mating age after three months. Hunting and predation prevent the rabbit population from growing out of control.

The Eastern Cottontail is a very territorial animal. They are largely nocturnal and is also active during early dawn and late dusk. The Eastern Cottontail can jump from 15 feet. When chased, it runs in a zigzag pattern so the animal chasing to make it harder for the predator to catch it. Top speed is only 15 mph so it relies more on change of direction than speed to ovoid becoming dinner.

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