eastern cottontail Sylvilagus floridanus
The eastern cottontail, also commonly known as a rabbit, is a mammal.
The cottontail has rust-brown fur with black over most of the body. There is a patch of cinnamon-colored fur at the base of the neck. The fur covering the belly and throat is white. The tail is short and stubby with a white underside. The soles of the feet have hair on them. The ears and hindlegs are very large.
This mammal grows to a length of about 14 to 19 inches. It typically weighs two to three pounds.
This species can be found throughout Illinois in weedy areas, briar patches, lawns, fence rows and around wooded areas.
In summer, it feeds on grasses and other soft-stemmed plants. In winter, it eats buds, fruits, seeds, waste grain, fruits, berries and tree and shrub bark. It also eats some of its own solid wastes!
Mating occurs from February through September. These animals have a complex mating ritual that involves jumping and chasing. The gestation period is about one month, and the female breeds again almost immediately after giving birth. She may produce three to seven litters per year. Four to six young make up the litter. Young are placed in a nest made of grass, hair and leaves on or in the ground. The mother comes to the nest only to nurse the young, about once or twice per day. The young leave the nest in about two weeks. Female cottontails can start breeding at about six months of age.
Many mammals (including humans and their pet cats and dogs), owls, hawks, crows and snakes eat cottontails.
The cottontail moves by hopping.
Cottontails do make some sounds to communicate and thump their hindfeet as a warning of danger.
Most cottontails live a little more than a year.
Can I Hunt It?
The eastern cottontail may be legally hunted and trapped in Illinois following all relevant laws and regulations.