Animals / Mammal Facts / Rabbits, Hares and Pika - Food for the World / Cottontails - American Reproducing Specialists, White Tails

Cottontails - American Reproducing Specialists, White Tails



There are many species of cottontail rabbits in the Americas (17 in all), mostly named after their region of origin or the type of habitat they populate, such as the mountain cottontail, New England cottontail, the desert cottontail and the swamp, brush and marsh rabbit species. As a group they are widespread and well-known throughout the lands of the Americas, easily identified by their puffy white tails. Their coloration is somewhat varied but the white underside is what they have in common. These puffy, white-tailed rabbits have adapted successfully to habitats as varied as swamps, deserts, forestlands and prairies. Although more formally known as wood hares, they are actually rabbits, meaning that they are smaller and stockier than hares, with ears and legs somewhat shorter, and their offspring are born naked and helpless.





Like most other American rabbits, they never dig tunnels or burrows. But they will borrow a burrow abandoned by other animals especially when a more robust shelter may come in handy, for example to escape bad weather or a dangerous predator. They make their homes near brambly thickets, thick grasses or briar patches (depending on the region) that offer protection against their many enemies. These shelters are often little more than small depressions scratched-out in the tall grasses or weeds. On windy days they prefer to just stay at home hiding out. This is because on a windy day they will have trouble using their big ears to detect the sounds of predators around them. Without their sense of hearing, they feel pretty vulnerable.


little rabbit


The average cottontail leads a very short life in the wild. Less than 25 percent of those born during any given season survive their year. The rest are killed by parasites, diseases, and their many predators including people. Hunters in North America alone kill some 25 million cottontails a year. As such, they must have a strategy that helps them keep a healthy population. That strategy is high-powered bunny reproduction! A female eastern cottontail for example, can raise up to six litters a year, averaging five to seven young. If all her broods lived and reproduced, they don't, but anyway if that were to happen, at the end of five years, that one female could have generated an empire of 2.5 billion bunnies.


bunny brood





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