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Bush Bunnies

Copyright Barbara Samuelson 2003
These two appeared to be doing the "Spring Thing" and chased each other back and forth across the path.

Copyright Barbara Samuelson 2003

Copyright Barbara Samuelson 2003

Rabbits and Hares

People often confuse rabbits and hares, but they are very different in several ways. Hares are generally larger, and have longer hind legs and longer ears than rabbits. When hares are born, they have a full coat of fur and their eyes are open. Their mothers either drop them on the bare ground at birth or into a slight depression in the ground. A young hare is called a leveret. Rabbits, on the other hand, are more compact. Their young, called bunnies, are born hairless and blind. The mother rabbit lines a nest with grass, bark and soft stems. Over this, she places a layer of hair that she plucks from her own body. When she leaves the nest, she covers the bunnies with more hair and dead plants to keep them warm and hidden from enemies. Rabbits and hares both molt and then grow new hair. This happens in both the spring and the fall. Rabbits' brown summer fur is replaced with fur that is grayer. Hares, especially those living in cold, snowy regions, turn white in the winter. Rabbits and hares are more active during the dark hours from dawn to dusk. Rabbits hide in either burrows or depressions in the ground during daylight hours. They try to keep hidden. Hares hide among plants and usually try to escape enemies by running. Rabbits are often found together. Male rabbits even fight within a group to become the dominant male. The dominant male rabbit then mates with most of the females in the area. Hares live most of the time by themselves. They come together in pairs for mating only. There is little or no fighting among hares. They just pair off.

It is unlawful to keep wild animals as pets. Cottontails, by their very nature, do not make suitable pets. They never lose their wildness and by being permanently confined are unable to fulfill their purpose in the ecosystem. Cottontails play a key role in our environment by consuming vegetation that might otherwise become overgrown and by providing a source of food for predator species. Cottontails kept as pets frequently die within their first few terror-filled weeks due to the stress of captivity. It is inappropriate, inhumane, and illegal to keep cottontails as pets. People interested in rabbits as pets should contact their local animal shelter, humane society, or other animal welfare organization for information on domestic rabbits available for adoption.

 


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