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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Update: June 2012