Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Easter Bunnies
Nature Bulletin No. 61   April 13, 1946
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Clayton F. Smith, President
Roberts Mann, Supt. of Conservation

Rabbits do have eggs. But they are only 1/300 of an inch in diameter and develop into young which are born and nursed like other mammals.

Molly Cottontail has already had the first of the three or four litters she produces per year in this climate. Each litter numbers from 4 to 6 little rabbits born in a nest which is a shallow hole dug in the ground by the mother, usually in an open field, padded with grass and with fur which she plucks from herself. Their ears are small at first, their eyes are closed, and they have only a coat of fuzz. After about a month they leave the nest and soon are shifting for themselves.

The cottontail, so called because the under side of its short tail is pure white, is a true rabbit. So are all the domestic breeds, including the Belgian hare. The jack rabbit, which is spreading into northwestern Illinois, is really a hare. The hares have longer ears, longer hind legs, and their young are born covered with fur, with their eyes open.

Hunters kill more rabbits than any other game animal in Illinois. Heavy rains drown many young in their nests. They are preyed upon by a long list of mammals, birds and snakes. Many are killed by automobiles. Sometimes thousands die of tularemia, or rabbit fever. Yet they are the most common game animal, much more plentiful now than in pioneer days, and are found living within Chicago and its suburbs. In addition to being prolific they are adaptable and clever.

They are more active at night. They eat grass, leaves, buds and berries but are especially fond of clover and garden vegetables such as cabbage and carrots. When snow covers other foods they can exist on bark gnawed from vines, shrubs and young trees. They will "freeze", motionless, for an hour if necessary, close to the ground. Pursued, they are experts at dodging and finding cover in dense thickets, brambles, hollow logs or road culverts, and holes in the ground. If overtaken they will stop short and dart off in another direction.

Uncle Remus was right. Brer Rabbit is smarter than a fox.

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