The Desert Cottontail Rabbit is a close cousin of the Eastern Cottontail! They are quite familiar to desert dwellers, having a very different appearance from Jackrabbits. Desert Cottontail Rabbits are mostly nocturnal, although they may sometimes move in daytime. They inhabit grassland or desert regions, and feed mostly on grasses.
Their diets are supplemented with bark, cactus pads, mesquite pods, prickly pear fruit or on occasion, stealings from local crops! These rabbits, like many domestic rabbits, are coprophagic, meaning they must eat their own feces in order to get full nutritional value from their food.
They produce green and brown feces, and only the green are reingested. Desert Cottontail Rabbits do not generally drink, rather getting their water from water droplets or dew on the plants they eat, and from the plants themselves. Desert Cottontail Rabbits do not generally stay in burrows, preferring rather to hide out in the shade of bushes or thickets.
They will use pre-existing burrows, and are commonly found near prairie dog towns! In the wild, Desert Cottontail Rabbits are preyed upon by raptors, foxes, bobcats and coyotes. They run in zigzag patterns to escape, but generally cannot reach more than 20 miles an hour. When a Desert Cottontail Rabbit feels threatened, he will thump his hind foot on the ground and flash his white, cottony tail to warn other rabbits in the area. Unlike other rabbits, Desert Cottontail Rabbits will climb low, sloping trees or cacti to escape predators!
They will also crouch low and freeze to blend in with their surroundings and hide. Unlike lone Jackrabbits, Desert Cottontails live in colonies and quite enjoy the company of their peers. Desert Cottontails are sandy or buff in coloration, and have large puffy white cottontails, of course! Their fur is lined with black on the topsides of their bodies, and white on the undersides.
Desert Cottontail Rabbits are between 13 and 17 inches in length, and generally weigh two to three pounds. Their long ears are three to four inches long. The hind feet of Desert Cottontail Rabbits are slender. Ranging from the west coast of the United States east to Texas and north through Montana and even North Dakota, the Desert Cottontail seems to cover every part of the country that the Eastern Cottontail does not inhabit!
Desert Cottontail Rabbits do not dig their own burrows; rather, they use those of other animals. The breeding season for Desert Cottontail Rabbits usually occurs in early spring and lasts through late summer, although in some areas they will breed all year. Desert Cottontail Rabbits build nests for their young by making hollow scrapes in the ground and lining them with their own fur and grasses.
If the rabbit already has a burrow, she will not build a new nest. After a gestation period of 25 to 35 days, two to six young are born. Young Desert Cottontail Rabbits are born helpless, naked and blind. They will be ready to leave the nest around 15 days of age! Desert Cottontail Rabbits will breed again as soon as their litter is independent.