Critter of the Month: Eastern Cottontail Rabbit
(Photo from Canva)
Did you know eastern cottontail rabbits are the most commonly found mammal in the United States? They have made themselves right at home throughout the eastern two-thirds of the country. In the state of Mississippi, it is one of the two rabbit species found here, the other being the swamp rabbit.
Cottontail rabbits find themselves at home in bushy areas with fields nearby. Bushy, wooded areas are used for nesting and protection from predators. Most rabbits can be seen around dawn and dusk. Rabbits frequently visit my parents’ house because of the large field and wooded area in the backyard. They are so fun to watch!
Cottontail rabbits generally weigh around two and a half pounds and have infamous cotton-white tails. Their diet consists of a variety of green grasses and woody plants. They are also frequent visitors to summer gardens and flower beds. If rabbits become a problem in your garden, consider building a fence out of poultry netting around the affected area to keep them out. Maintaining a well-cut lawn and removing tall weeds around your home are also effective ways to deter them.
The population of rabbits has steadily declined over the last several years due to the evolving use of land. They also have a high death rate, reaching as high as 80 percent! However, the rabbit population is helped by high reproductive rates. Most females have around five litters per season!
With the abundance of baby bunnies hopping around during spring, it’s not uncommon to find a nest around your yard. As tempting as it is to bring them inside, it’s smart to leave them be. You don’t want the mom to come back to no babies! No matter how cute they are, they are still wild animals and should be kept in their natural habitat.
Remember to always check tall grassy areas for rabbits before mowing. If you stumble upon an injured rabbit, contact the Mississippi Wildlife Rehabilitation. For additional information on cottontail rabbits, check out Extension Publication 2467, “Ecology and Management of Rabbits in Mississippi.”
Subscribe to Extension for Real Life
Fill in the information below to receive a weekly update of our blog posts.