Eastern cottontails have two different fur coats each year. During the summer they have short brown fur with a white belly. During the winter the fur becomes longer and grayer, with a white belly. All year long the underside of the tail is white. This white tail is the source of their common name. Adult eastern cottontails reach a length of 395 to 477 mm. They also have very large eyes for their size. Females are slightly larger than males.
Eastern cottontails are only native to the Nearctic region. They are found from southern Ontario and Manitoba in Canada to central and northwestern South America. In the United States, they range from the east coast to the Great Plains in the west. They have been introduced into portions of the western United States.
Historically, Eastern cottontails inhabited a variety of habitat types, including deserts, swamps, and forests. They are now most often found in meadows, orchards, farmlands, bushes and areas with low bushes, vines and low deciduous trees.
Eastern cottontails usually breed from February until September. The exact time of breeding depends on the temperature, food, and light. These rabbits are able to begin breeding at 2 to 3 months old. Females can have anywhere from 1 to 7 litters per year but usually have 3 to 4. Litter size varies from 1 to 12 babies with an average of 5. Females are pregnant for 25 to 28 days before they give birth to their young. The babies are born without fur and blind. The babies usually weigh 25 to 35g at birth. Young open their eyes at 4 to 7 days old. They move out of the nest at 12 to 16 days old. They are independent at 4 to 5 weeks old.
Eastern cottontail females construct a nest in a protected place a few days before giving birth. They care for their young in the nest and nurse them until they are about 16 days old.
Eastern cottontails are short-lived. Most do not survive beyond their third year.
Eastern cottontails are solitary. They will chase other rabbits our of their home ranges. They are most active during the night but especially in the early morning hours and at dusk. They do not hibernate, so they can be seen during the winter.
Eastern cottontails have excellent vision, hearing, and sense of smell. Eastern cottontails make many sounds. They have cries of worry that are used to startle an enemy and warn others of danger. They grunt if predators approach a nesting female and her litter. They also make squeals during mating.
Eastern cottontails are herbivores. Most of their diet consists of grass. In the summer they also eat wild strawberries, clover, and garden vegetables. In the winter they will eat twigs and bark of trees. In order to get all of the nutrition out of these plants, eastern cottontails will eat their own feces to have a second chance to absorb the nutrients.
Eastern cottontails can escape predators with their fast, jumping form of locomotion. They can run at speeds of up to 18 miles per hour. They will either flush, freeze, or slink to escape danger. Flushing is a fast, zig-zag dash to an area of cover. Slinking is moving low to the ground with the ears laid back to avoid detection. Freezing is simply remaining motionless.
Eastern cottontails cause a great deal of damage in their search for food. They are pests to gardeners and farmers in the summer. In addition, humans may contract the bacterial disease tularemia from handling the dead body of an infected cottontail.
Eastern cottontails are found in many places and are good to eat. Because of this, they are widely hunted. They are hunted for sport, meat, and fur.
Eastern cottontails are common throughout their range.
Kimberly Mikita (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
active at dawn and dusk
animals that generate their own body heat through metabolic processes.
union of egg and spermatozoan
an animal that mainly eats leaves.
A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
having more than one female as a mate at one time
breeding is confined to a particular season
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
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