Wed Mar 2023

Cottontail II*

In late spring and early summer, cottontails can be seen all over the neighborhood. As soon as the young are old enough to fend for themselves, the families depart. Where they go, and why, I’m not sure, but I assume it has something to do with the young finding mates and territories of their own.

As we all know, the rabbit’s main defense against predators is flight, but its flight response is sometimes at odds with an innate sense of curiosity. This comely creature was clearly curious. It performed a little jig for me just outside my window, its legs wanting to flee, but its eyes fixed on me and holding it in place. The sun’s late, golden rays lit up it’s fine fur like a Kleig light on stage a performer. The date was July 24, 2013. All four images were captured within one minute, at 5:51 pm.

The following from Wikipedia describes hares and cottontails:

Hares do not bear their young below ground in a burrow as do other leporids, but rather in a shallow depression or flattened nest of grass called a form. Young hares are adapted to the lack of physical protection, relative to that afforded by a burrow, by being born fully furred and with eyes open. They are hence able to fend for themselves soon after birth; they are precocial. By contrast, the related rabbits and cottontail rabbits are altricial, having young that are born blind and hairless.

All rabbits (except the cottontail rabbits) live underground in burrows or warrens, while hares (and cottontail rabbits) live in simple nests above the ground, and usually do not live in groups. Hares are generally larger than rabbits, with longer ears, and have black markings on their fur. Hares have not been domesticated, while rabbits are kept as pets.

“Pests!” is an expletive often heard from gardeners when surveying rabbit damage. It’s a bad rap. I urge them to reread Robert Frost’s beloved poem, Mending Wall, in which he reminds us that, “Good fences make good neighbours.” A little wire fencing is cheap, easy to install, and will go a long way to keep the peace with these engaging and friendly neighbors.