Desert Cottontails

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    Desert Cottontails, and other rabbits out west, are going to a bit more brazen and bold, since they are surviving in the barest of elements. Cottontails are rabbits found all throughout the western states and northern Mexico. The desert cottontail is not as rough around the edges as jackrabbits are, but they are survivors to the bitter end. You can find them up to 600,500 feet at elevation until other species of rabbit are found at higher levels. These are smaller rabbits compared to the Eastern Cottontail. They can survive on minimal food, and they get most of their water from dew and cacti. In general, they don\'t require too much water to begin with, and they are well suited to deal with climate. To survive, they will also eat their own feces for nutritional value. 90 percent of their diet comprises grass, but since it is difficult to digest, they will often use feces as a digestive aid.

    If you live out west and are thinking about hunting one of these little buggers, you\'ll have some competition. This animal has quite a few natural enemies: coyotes, birds, mountain lions, lynx, wolves, bobcat, snakes and even squirrels.

    If threatened, it will defend itself by slapping its front paws or jumping high to scare away small predators. For larger predators, it merely scurries in zigzag motion. They will also freeze and hunker down to blend into its surroundings. Its light-colored fur allows it to absorb less heat during the day, and the blood vessels can emit body heat into the air. During the day, their bodies conserve moisture during the day, and they do this by remaining less active during the day.

    Since these rabbits are surviving in the harshest of conditions, this is a much more social rabbit than other hare groups. You can find them in groups eating together, and they will alert other rabbits by raising its tail. If given no other choice, these desert rabbits will swim or climb trees to evade predators.

    Habitat

    These rabbits are normally nocturnal, but you can spot them in the morning or late afternoon. And you won\'t see them as much during windy days, since this interferes with their hearing. Its ears are the number one defense mechanisms against predators.

    You can normally find them in burrows dug by other animals, especially the young, but they can also be born above ground. Normally you can find young and mature rabbits in abandoned badger or prairie dog burrows. Babies require constant protection until they are three weeks old, which is normally the time they leave the nest. Females are generally larger than the males, and will give birth to several litters a year. She can bear up to 20 to 30 young within four litters.

    Hunting Tips

    American Indians were the first to hunt these rabbits for meat, along with using their fur for blankets and pouches. Generally, the best type of dog to bring with you on a desert hunt is a beagle. They will help you chase the rabbit and steer it towards your way for the kill. You can find these rabbits near crops and shady areas. Watch out for burrows, since rabbits rarely stray that far from their birthing places.

    You\'ll want to use a 20 gauge or .410 shotgun. Spreading shots will increase your chances of a kill instead of a rifle. Whenever handling rabbits from this region, be aware of Tularemia, a fatal disease that can be transferred to humans. Signs of this disease are white spots covered over the rabbit and a swollen liver.

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