Nuttall’s cottontails (Sylvilagus nuttalli) are not a very social species and do not spend much time interacting other than during the courting and breeding season. Recently we noticed the Nuttall’s cottontails living in our brushpiles and along our fencerows chasing each other and jumping around. It must be spring!!
Also known as a mountain cottontail, the Nuttall’s is gray or brownish gray with a little white tail. The inner ears are covered in hair and tipped in black. The nape is a distinct pale brown color.
Found in the mountain West, Nuttall’s live in sagebrush areas or amid patches of weeds or tall grasses. In the spring and summer these cottontails eat grasses, wildflowers, weeds and farm or garden crops. During the winter they are less selective and will eat almost any plant including buds, twigs, bark and conifer needles. In dry areas the Nuttall’s will climb sloping tree trunks to reach green vegetation.
Hawks, owls, domestic dogs, coyotes, foxes and bobcats prey on adult Nuttall’s cottontails. In addition to fleeing, the cottontail often becomes immobile when confronted with danger so that predators do not see or notice it. Cottontails also practice coprophagy, passing pellets containing undigested vegetative material once they return to their shelter. They can then eat and digest the pellets at their leisure.
These pictures were taken in our pastures (Lookout CA). Perhaps after a thirty-day gestation period and two weeks when the cottontail babies are blind, hairless and helpless, Leonard and I will begin to see young Nuttall’s cottontails.