Eastern Cottontail

Eastern cottontail rabbits do not dig burrows, although they may shelter in disused ones dug by other animals. Generally they shelter in thickets or forms - shallow depressions made in tall grass or scraped in the ground. Eastern cottontails forage at night, grazing mainly on grasses, but also nibbling small shrubs. Unlike hares, which rely on their speed to outrun predators, cottontails freeze when under threat, blending into their surroundings. If they have to run, they follow zigzag paths, attempting to shake off their pursuers.

Female eastern cottontails are larger than the males. The name "cottontail" is derived from their short, rounded tails, which have white fur on their underside. Their upper bodies are covered in grey, brown and reddish hairs.

In warmer parts of their range cottontails breed all year round, but farther north breeding is restricted to summer. Male eastern cottontails fight to establish hierarchies, with top males getting their choice of mates. A pregnant female digs a shallow hole, which is deeper at one end than the other. She lines the nest with grass and fur from her belly. Once she has given birth, she crouches over the shallow end and her young crawl up from the warm deep end to suckle.

Distribution: Eastern Canada and United States to Venezuela.

Habitat: Farmland, forest, desert, swamp and prairie.

Food: Grass, leaves, twigs and bark.

Size: 21 - 47 cm (8.5 - 18.5 in); 0.8 - 1.5 kg (1.75 - 3.25 lb).

Maturity: 80 days.

Breeding: 3 - 7 litters per year, each of up to 12 young.

Life span: 5 years.

Status: Common.