Friday, September 12, 2014

Little Bunny Foo Foo

Eastern cottontail rabbits are a common sight in Floridian nature and this little guy was willing to sit still for the camera yesterday as we passed by on our morning walk. The average Florida cottontail is between 14-17 inches in length and only weighs 2 to 4 pounds. They are grayish-brown in color, but are best recognized for their distinctive white "cotton" tail. Cotton tails in central Florida are often seen on the side of the road and stay near wooded areas. Twice last month I awoke to see a cottontail in my back yard despite the fact that the yard has a six foot privacy fence. When he saw me and decided to run for the hills, I saw that he had probably entered the yard the same way he exited it, by fitting under the narrow space beneath the gate 

Rabbits are strictly vegetarians with their main food being green plant parts when available. They will eat young woody shoots and bark in a pinch if there is nothing better to choose from. I know they definitely love broccoli because a few years ago I awoke to find all the broccoli plants in my garden were eaten with the rabbit still there, finishing up on the last few nubs!

The eastern cottontail has keen senses of sight, smell and hearing. It is crepuscular and nocturnal, and is active all winter. During daylight hours, the eastern cottontail remains crouched in a hollow under a log or in a thicket.  Here it naps and grooms itself. The cottontail sometimes checks the surroundings by standing on its hind legs with its forepaws tucked next to its chest. I like watched him wiggle his nose in the video, taking about 30 breaths in 10 seconds.

Although cottontails are quick runners and can reach speeds up to 18 miles per hour, they have a relatively short life span. Most do not survive beyond their third year. Enemies include hawks, owls, foxes, coyotes, weasels and man.

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