Cottontail Crash Course

•The Eastern cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus) is one of our most abundant and popular small-game species. Ranging throughout the United States east of the Rocky Mountains and into New Mexico and Arizona, the cottontail can be found in edge environments between woody vegetation and open land. --JACK LARSON

  1. 1 TAIL When fleeing a predator, the cottontail will hold its highly visible tail erect but will eventually hunker down in the brush with it tucked away. The predator, having followed the rabbit's tail, will often give up the chase.

  2. 2 FUR The cottontail rabbit undergoes two molts per year. In spring it grows a shorter, browner coat, whereas winter brings the longer, thicker, grayer pelage suitable for the cold and snow.

  3. 3 EYES Like most heavily preyed upon species, the cottontail has eyes set far back on its skull, sacrificing the depth perception needed for pursuit in favor of the wide field of vision needed for escape.

  4. 4 EARS In addition to facilitating an acute sense of hearing, the cottontail's large ears are highly vascular and play a significant role in regulating body temperature.

  5. 5 INCISORS Prominent incisors grow continuously to compensate for wear. The heavily enameled fronts of the teeth wear more slowly than the backs, creating a sharp, chisel-like edge.

  6. 6 LEGS When flushed from its cover, the cottontail will bound off in a chaotic zigzagging pattern, making lightning-quick changes in direction in an attempt to lose its pursuer. Its powerful hind legs will propel it at a swift 18 mph and launch it up to 8 feet in a single bound.

  7. 7 WHISKERS AND LIPS Despite the cottontail's wide field of vision, it has a blind spot just beneath its mouth; it uses its sensitive whiskers and prehensile lips to locate food.