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Amazing Facts

Rabbits Facts

Rabbits are not rodents but belong to their own
order called lagomorphs. The evolutionary split between
rabbits and other living mammals probably occurred about
thirty million years ago.

There are twelve species of rabbits in the United
States with the eastern cottontail being the most widely distributed.

Cottontails vary in color from gray to brown and
have large ears and hind feet and fluffy tails. They
average about a foot in length and weigh 2 to 3 pounds.

Cottontails are generally found in brushy hedgerows
and the edges of wooded areas with dense cover, but also
do very well in suburbs and urban areas. Rabbits feed on
leafy plants during the growing season and the buds and
bark of woody plants in the winter.

Famous for their reproductive abilities, cottontails
breed from February through September. Gestation is about
28 days. Three or four litters of four or five young
known as kittens are born each year. Young are born
helpless in a shallow depression lined with grass and
mother’s fur, but they grow rapidly and are weaned when
less than half the size of the adult.

Mothers nurse their babies for approximately 5
minutes a day. The milk is very rich and the babies fill
up to capacity within minutes. Mother rabbits do not sit
on their babies to keep them warm. Baby rabbits are often
"rescued" by well-meaning humans who think that they have
been abandoned. Fewer than 10% of these babies survive.

Cottontails may live to two years in the wild, but
where predators are numerous, they seldom live more than
one. 85% of the rabbit population dies each year. This
includes at least one out of every three babies that are
born per year.

Many mortality factors affect rabbit populations.
Weather is a major factor in nest mortality as ground
nests are susceptible to flooding in heavy rains.

Problems and Solutions

Cottontail damage is usually caused by the rabbits
feeding on flowers and vegetable plants in spring and
summer and fruit trees and ornamentals in the fall and
winter. You can tell that rabbits caused the damage by
the cleanly cut plant remains and the presence of
pea-sized droppings scattered around the area or sometimes
left in small piles.

The most effective permanent protection for gardens
subject to rabbit damage is a well-constructed fence.
Chicken wire supported by posts every 6 to 8 feet is
strong enough to exclude rabbits. Such fences normally
need to be only about 2 feet high but it is important to
make sure that the bottom is either buried 6 to 8 inches
or staked securely to the ground to prevent rabbits from
pushing their way underneath it. Some gardeners prefer to
construct movable fence panels that can be stored as
sections (2 x 8 feet) and set out to protect the garden
right after the first planting when damage is likely to be
most severe. Some years the panels might not be needed at
all given the ups and downs that occur with the rabbit population.

Related Tags: Rabbits  Animals  Species  
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