Rabbits are small mammals that belong to their own family named as Leporidae of the order Lagomorphs. They are not rodents. It is said that the evolutionary separation between rabbits and other living mammals possibly took place about thirty million years ago.
There are 13 species of rabbits with the eastern cottontail being the most popular one around the world. Cottontails found in different colors ranging from gray to brown. They have large ears and hind feet and fluffy tails. Its average length is about a foot and weighs 2 – 3 pounds.
In wild, cottontails are live in brushy hedgerows and the edges of forested areas with dense cover; however, they can also live in suburbs and urban areas. During the growth period, they feed on leafy plants, whereas they eat buds and bard of woody plants in the cold season.
Cottontails are quite popular because of their reproductive abilities as they can breed from February through September. Gestation is about 28 days. They can give birth to 3 or 4 litters of 4 or 5 young ones called kittens in a year. Kittens are born vulnerable in a shallow area lined with grass and mother’s fur, however they grow fast and are weaned when less than half the size of the adult.
Mother rabbits take care their young ones for almost 5 minutes day. Since their milk is very rich therefore the young ones fill up to capacity within minutes. Mothers do not sit on their babies to keep them warm. Often, abandoned baby rabbits are saved by humans, however fewer than 10% of these babies stay alive.
In wild, cottontails can live up to 2 years, however the areas where there are many predators, they rarely live more than a year. According to a study, approximately 85% of the rabbit population dies each year, which comprises at least one out of every three babies that are born in a year.
A number of mortality factors encroach on rabbit population. One of the major factors in nest mortality is weather because ground nests are vulnerable to flooding in heavy rains.