They’re everywhere. In the grass, under your porch or shed, eating your garden and being chased by your dog. Wascally wabbits are a ubiquitous sight around Cherry Hills and Metro Denver. But what are these bouncy critters that look so cute and cuddly? If you’re in CHV, they’re probably desert cottontails, which are common along the Eastern edge of the Rockies. Desert cottontails are an important prey species, since just about everything bigger than them thinks they’re tasty (people included). This is why they have so many babies and part of why we have so many raptors around CHV. So next time you see a rabbit and it runs away really quickly, just remember that poor Peter just doesn’t want to become your dinner!
Some fun cottontail facts:
- Desert cottontails (Sylvilagus audubonii) are mostly separated from mountain cottontails (Sylvilagus nuttallii) by elevation and both are found along the Front Range
- Cottontails get their name from their small, round, fluffy white tails
- Cottontails have multiple litters (4-6) of kits per warm season (hence the phrase “breed like rabbits”)
- Baby rabbits grow very quickly, becoming full-grown by 3 months old
- Desert cottontails’ ears can be up to 14% of their body size!
- Cottontails are related to hares and jackrabbits, who are their larger relatives, and pikas, who are their miniature, high-altitude distant relations
- Cottontails can run up to 19 mph!
- There is currently a viral disease running through rabbit and hare populations around the US, but it is not dangerous to people or other animals