Some people think they're cute; others consider them a nuisance. Cottontail rabbits are ubiquitous creatures found in woods, fields, farms and back yards. There are 16 species of this mammal, including the Eastern cottontail, the Desert cottontail and the New England cottontail. They are stocky animals, with large and strong hind feet, long ears and a fluffy tail that looks like a cotton ball.
Cottontail rabbits have a long, coarse coat which can be brown, reddish-brown, grayish-brown or black, with white fur underneath and on the tail.
Adults generally weigh between 1 to 3 lbs. and are 14 to 19 inches long.
In the summer, cottontail rabbits eat grasses, flowers and herbs, along with garden and farm crops such as beans and lettuce. In winter, they chew on bark, twigs and buds. These eating preferences explain why many people consider cottontail rabbits to be pests.
Cottontail rabbits generally forage for food at night and stay concealed in brush during the daytime. Sometimes they can be seen in the early morning and at dusk, or out and about on cloudy days.
These rabbits usually move in short hops, but they can run at speeds up to 18 mph for a short distance, zig-zagging to leave a confusing trail for predators. Cottontail rabbits also are good swimmers.