Life in the fast lane
With two pounds of body weight, two twitching ears and just two years of life expectancy the bunny meets danger at every turn. Quivering, vulnerable and preyed upon by all of the larger meat-eaters, the cottontail rabbit is still the most common desert mammal. Chalk this up to prodigious breeding habits. A month after mating the female will give birth to 2-4 little bunnies who will strike out on their own in just two weeks time. By 3 months of age they will be starting their own families. Cottontails breed throughout spring and summer, giving birth to at least two litters per year. Mom digs a shallow nest and lines it with grasses and fur and then covers the bunnies with another layer. She will visit the babies to nurse only a couple of times in the night so as not to attract predators. The gentle souls are crepuscular and nocturnal, feeding on just about anything green during the early morning and evening and in the dark of night. Cottontails obtain the water they need largely through the plants they eat, especially cacti. They generally stay within 400 yards of their burrows as their only defenses are superior hearing, eyesight and speed. Snakes, owls, hawks, bobcats and coyotes all count on the cottontail for calories. Rabbit was also a staple for indigenous people of the past. Without predators the bunny population would quickly be out of control.
Many gardeners bemoan the damage that a few rabbits can do to their flowers and veggies, and find that only a good wire fence will deter the voracious nibblers.
The superstition that a rabbit’s foot brings luck is one of the oldest around, dating back to Celtic times. The luckiest foot was the left hind, and often the circumstances of the death of the rabbit contributed to the auspiciousness….full moons and so forth.
A Burma-Shave billboard from the 50’s trumpeted this catchy phrase:
‘On curves ahead remember, sonny
That rabbit’s foot didn’t save the bunny.’