| Rabbits produce astounding numbers of young. Five or six litters per female are common, and they typically have four to six young per litter. The gestation period for cottontails is 28 days. They give birth in fur and grass lined nests called forms.|
The Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) is a New World cottontail rabbit, a member of the family Leporidae. It is one of the most common rabbit species in North America.
It can be found in meadows and shrubby areas in the eastern and southwestern United States, southern Canada, eastern Mexico and Central America. Its range expanded north as forests were cleared by settlers. Originally, the Eastern Cottontail was not found in New England, but it has been introduced there and now competes for habitat there with the native New England Cottontail.
It eats green vegetation such as grasses and clover in summer and bark, buds and twigs in winter. This animal is active at night; it does not hibernate in winter. Predators include hawks, owls, mustelids and lynx. People also hunt it for food in many parts of its range; its fur is also used for clothing.
On farms and in gardens, the Eastern Cottontail is usually considered a pest and is often trapped or shot to protect plants.
This cottontail mates from February to September with up to 9 kittens resulting from each litter. They average 3 litters a year. After the female has given birth to her offspring, she can mate again immediately thereafter.
The kittens are weaned after 3 weeks and leave the nest after seven weeks. The kittens then reach mating age after three months. Hunting and predation prevent the rabbit population from growing out of control. About 20-25% of the young rabbits live in a year and 85% of adults or young are killed every year from the hunting season and predators.
Its appearance differs from that of a hare in that the cottontails have a brownish-gray coloring around the head and neck. The body is lighter color with a white underside on the tail. It has large brown eyes and large ears to see and listen for danger. In the winter it is more gray than brown.
The average adult weighs about 2-4 pounds; however the female tends to be heavier.
The Eastern Cottontail is a very territorial animal. It is nocturnal and is also active during early dawn and late dusk. When running it can jump from 10-15 feet which can aid in avoiding predators. When chased, it runs in a zigzag pattern so the animal chasing it will lose its scent and so the rabbit is harder to follow.
It can run up to 15mph.
The cottontail prefers an area where it can hide quickly but be out in the open. Forests, swamps, thickets, bushes or an open area where it can dig a burrow is optimal habitation sites for this species. Its diet includes of grasses, fruits, and vegetables in the spring and summer, and twigs, bark, dogwoods and maple trees in the winter.
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