Wildthings Public Wildlife Education

When Is A Jackrabbit Not A Rabbit and A Cottontail Not A Hare?

    In North America one of the most common bunnies is the Cottontail.  Colorado is Cottontail, credit Michael Seraphinhome to three different species of cottontail rabbits; the mountain cotton tail, the desert cottontail, and the eastern cottontail.  They are very hard to distinguish the difference except for geographical location and habitat.  Since you see Cottontails almost everywhere I found it surprising they only have a 15% chance of surviving the first year. Their tough life starts from the moment they are born, because lots of times the “den” is just a small depression Mom scratched in the ground. They are born with eyes and ears closed, and no hair.  Mom comes 2-3 times a day to feed them.  She never stays with them very long.  She doesn’t want to draw any attention to the nest.  By the time the first month is up their eyes and ears are open and they are a self-suffient bunny.  Mom considers her job done then, and leaves when her buns are around 4-5 weeks old.  This way she can have numerous litters each year, this helps make up for the bad mortality rate in Cottontails.

    Cottontails live in a wide variety of habitats scattered across North America.  They usually don’t go very far from sagebrush, bushes or some sort of ground cover to hide in.  Lots of critters eat bunnies and, they never know whether to watch the sky or the ground for trouble. That makes dawn and dusk their main feeding times, though sometimes you can see them out during mid-day, Cottontails are not nocturnal. Their favorite foods are green vegetations like dandelions but, when that’s not available they will feed on branches and twigs to help tide them over.  The fact of them eating just greens is one of the things that make bunnies tricky to rehab.  You have to wean them from formula to greens carefully or their little tummy’s just can’t take it.  Next thing you know you have a dead little bunny.  And that’s definitely not what we are going for!  Apx 2wk  old Cottontail                                                                             

    Now the Hare family includes the Snowshoe Hare as well as all the Jackrabbits.  With Mom Hare she picks a brush, cactus or something that offers good concealment and has her babies in there.  No den, not even the slight depression that a mom Cottontail will use.  Now a Snowshoe Hare may den if the weather is bad enough but, just as rule of thumb Jackrabbits usually will not.  One of the biggest differences between a Hares and Cottontails is that Hares are born with their eyes and ears open and ready to run.  Mama Jackrabbits natural instinct is to hide her kids, she tries but, kids will be kids.  And baby Jackrabbits will hop around from the moment they are born.

 Black-tailed Jackrabbit, photo taken from the Washington DC Library   Hares have longer ears and bigger feet than a Cottontail.  They also prefer the open country instead of the brush.  They would rather run than hide from a predator.  If the first thing when you look at a rabbit  you don’t go.......“look at this guy’s ears and feet!”, then it is NOT a Jackrabbit!  They definitely grab your attention.  You heard that old saying “as fast as a Jackrabbit”?  Well, Jackrabbits are faaast! That’s where those big ‘ol feet come in handy.  A Hare can do over 40 miles an hour, and they can leap over ten feet.  And Hares like the night life, they are nocturnal.  They may feed right after dark or right before dawn to try to avoid some of the predators, like owls, but they prefer the cover of dark. 

So, I guess all bunny's are not created equal.

When is a Jackrabbit not a rabbit and a Cottontail not a Hare?                     All the time!

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Our mission, in a nut shell, is to take in injured and orphaned wildlife.  Then we either try to heal or raise that critter to be able to survive back in the wild.  We are all about the wildlife, it is our passion.  Everything we take in we try to release back into it's natural habitat.

     We are a licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility in Southern Colorado. We sit nestled next to the foothills in a (very) little town called Rockvale.  We work with the Division of Wildlife, the Sheriff's Department, Animal Control Agents, the Humane Society, many vets, and of course LOTS of the Public.  We would not be able to save the amount of wildlife each year without all the help from all of you.  From us and all the thousands of critters.....Thank You for helping us care for Colorado's wildlife!  We are all part of the circle of life.  Our reward is to release wildlife back into it's natural habitat, so that it knows how to find food, shelter, and be the wild thing that's in it's true nature.

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