15 Sep 2011

Wildlife Encounter: Eastern Cottontail

Eastern Cottontail
Although I love birds, birds aren't my only photographic subject when I head out on bird watch.  Guess I'm a real shutterbug.  I take photos of anything of interest and anything that moves.  This little cottontail surprised me just as I was tucking my camera away and heading home from the river valley.  So I only managed to get the one photo, before he bolted for, and disappeared into the undergrowth.

Snowshoe hare
I'd never encountered this species before and so I had to do some research.  He definitely does not belong to the Snowshoe hare category of species, which is what I see most often.  He is much smaller in size and a uniform brown in color except for his white belly and tail, which I glimpsed briefly as he fled.  His ears are also much shorter and more rounded in shape.

Unidentified cottontail
The only other cotton tail I have ever come across lived near a pond in my old neighborhood.   At the time I mistook it for a hybrid or juvenile Snowshoe.   But it never grew any bigger, even by it's second year,

although it's coloring remained similar to that of the Snowshoe hare in summer.  Apparently it is not possible for this little one to be a hybrid, and by that, I mean a cross between a Snowshoe and a domestic rabbit and I never did identify it as a specific species.

Although there are many species of Cottontail rabbits, the Eastern Cottontail is the most common to be found from Canada to South America.  Cottontail rabbits range in color from rusty brown to gray but all have a white cottontail.  You will find cottontails on the edge of open spaces such as fields, meadows, farms and city parks, amongst bushes and hedges, or deadwood.  They forage for food at night on grasses and herbs, but also love peas and lettuce.


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