Natural Sightings #589 - Desert Cottontails.jpg

A couple of Desert Cottontails are spotted in Stallion Springs.

Randy Weinstein took this photo in Stallion Springs of a couple of Desert Cottontails (Sylvilagus audubonii).

These common little mammals, also known as Audubon's Cottontail, are found throughout the West. Despite their common name, they are found in a wide variety of habitats, from the California coast, valleys, foothills, and all the way up to mountains that are 6,000 feet in elevation.

Cottontails, which are lagomorphs and not rodents, despite what many people think, are considered crepuscular, meaning they are most active during the twilight hours of dawn and dusk. However, they can also be found out foraging at nearly any time of the day or night. They are more cautious during windy weather, however, which interferes with their ability to hear predators.

And predators are one thing that rabbits have in abundance: nearly every carnivore wants to make a meal of rabbits, which have been called Prince of a Thousand Enemies. Cottontails must use their wits and speed and caution to escape from the hawks, owls, snakes, coyotes, ravens, foxes, bobcats and other predators that hunt them.

This seems to have been a fairly productive year for Desert Cottontails, and both the adults and young ones can be seen throughout the Tehachapi Mountains now. The babies grow quickly — they typically reach full size when they are only three to four months old.

With all their predators, rabbits typically have a lifespan of less than two years, though lucky adults can survive for four or five years. Constant threats make this a rare occurrence, however.

The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for rabbit is tavutsi, pronounced tah-VUUT-si.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.

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