Cottontail Nest

Leonard has a small native plant garden. Grasses, Leonard’s passion, dominate the plot, along with a few wildflowers. Native California poppies also grow in profusion. A few days ago when Leonard went out to weed he unexpectedly disturbed a Nuttall’s cottontail (Sylvilagus nuttalli) nest. As he picked weeds five tiny cottontail rabbits suddenly scattered from a thick clump of prairie Junegrass. The little rabbits ran in all directions. Leonard immediately left the area so the baby rabbits could return to the nest. After several days we concluded that the nest was empty and found it amid the tall grass.

Nuttall’s cottontails build a cup-like cavity lined with fur and dried grass hidden amid grasses or other thick vegetation. Four to six kits are born after a gestation of 28 to 30 days. The babies are born naked with closed eyes and are completely dependent on the parents. After about a month the young cottontails are independent.

Leonard and I know where three of the cottontails in that litter are: one lives under our back deck, one stays under a bunkhouse close to the house and a third seems to prefer a dense clump of spirea in the front yard. An adult also moves around near the house and appears to reside in a lead plant fence row along the driveway. Nuttall’s cottontails feed and are most active primarily at dawn and dusk (crepuscular). Every morning and evening Leonard and I enjoy watching the young cottontails eat and romp in the yard. Grasses are the preferred food of cottontails, however, our little visitors adore the abundant dandelion leaves and stems that pass for our yard.

The pictured cottontail is the one that lives under my back deck (Lookout Ca/Modoc County). I love to watch it from the kitchen window.


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