I see these Desert Cottontail all the time, I saw a hawk snatch one up right from my cabin-in-dreaming site. This morning I headed out to dig more gravel for pathways, I startled a Cottontail digging a burrow. Missed the photo op, because the dog went crazy and the Cottontail ran a dozen feet and stopped, apparently waiting for us to get out of her way.
I gotta tell ya that I have read that Cottontail do not dig burrows, they recycle rodent burrows. Maybe they are sensible recyclers, but I saw this chickadee digging this burrow. I once dug side-by-side with another Desert Cottontail in the hole for my partially underground cabin-in-dreaming.
Desert Cottontail are very docile and would probably make good pets or fur/food livestock, they top out just over 3 pounds in maybe 4 months and mama can produce 3 litters a year if well fed. Not only that, they do not require water other than what is in their food and maybe morning dew. Really. I have looked locally at tame overlarge rabbits that need a lot of care, but find my Desert Cottontail much more attractive as potential livestock in the desert.
If I do add rabbits that are not free to me and must be fed, I would want French Angora for beautiful yarn. Not only beautiful but extremely warm for those of us who live in the mountains or up north with long cold winters. Angora wool is a luxury item, and I once watched a woman demonstrate spinning Angora yarn while the rabbit sat on her lap as she pulled tufts of hair from it. Talking a mile a minute the whole time! I guess it is a body memory skill, like typing and playing piano.
I have a sling shot and it seems a good weapon to kill rabbits for the pot without scaring every animal around. Without ruining its pretty pelt, either. I used a slingshot as a kid, the made by my daddy version from a tree fork. My new one is high-tech looking. Won’t make it hit the target. I will practice on cans or something. Barring that, I will have to buy an air gun or .22 for small game. Shotgun?
For now, it is clear the Desert Cottontail are safe from me. They know it. My perpetrator was almost made nervous by my dog lunging, so she hopped over to the gate and slipped outside.
In this photo, the Desert Cottontail is watching us through the gate, hoping we’d get away from her new burrow. She finally exited to the left. I went back to my digging business, taking care to refill the burrow before moving gravel.
The pathway runs in front of the building for access, between raised beds 4 and 6. The entry from the left leads back through the potager to my trailerstead. The center path on the right leads to the rabbit gate.
I turned around and realized Ms. Cottontail went around the building, through the building site, and back to her burrow.
It occurs to me that she is trying to dig a new nest for babies. Desert Cottontails have so many predators that they are lucky to get one child to maturity out of 3 litters, and snakes enter their burrows with impunity to take babies.
I am well aware that inside my fence and in my space is marginally safer from other predators. Females have a home range of about an acre and this girl was likely born right here. I think she is female because I see her a lot and she is making a burrow. A guess, in other words. Males have larger ranges, about 15 acres. Desert Cottontails survive on water from their food and occasional morning dew. Starting to sound like luvestock to me.
Rabbits have no real defenses other than acute hearing and a zigzag escape route. Their species survival depends on rapid reproduction. When we kill most of their predators, they breed out of control.
A Cottontail disease called Myxomatosis was first discovered in a laboratory in Uruguay in the late 1800s. It causes skin tumors, blindness, fatigue, fever, and death in 2-14 days. The photos are repellant.
Farmers in Australia decimated natural predators and rabbits bred into incredible numbers by 1950, when Myxomatosis was introduced. The estimated population of 600 million was reduced to 100 million in 2 years. The disease was spread by insect bites… something like AIDS spread by unclean needles.
Bacteriologist Paul Armand Delille introduced Myxomatosis on his estate in France and within 4 months, the virus spread 50 kilometers and within 2 years 90% of wild rabbits in France had died. He blamed poachers.
The disease was introduced in the UK and New Zealand.
Now rabbit owners are required to vaccinate their pets. Wild populations, even those 99% exterminated, recovered their numbers due to resistance. Australia does not allow pet vaccination because they pass the vaccine back into the wild population.
A new virus has been developed.
Although I understand rancher resistance to predators, more money has been lost because of rabbits than from predators. We see this repeated endlessly, in insects, everything. A natural ecosystem brings these things into control, but humans seem to choose further disruption every time. No one ever says, well, stupid, that’s what ya get. If you do say the truth… you are branded a treehugging commie pinko… instead of a commonsense hick from the sticks.
There are so many of us now that it is adversely impacting massive ecosystems. I have no answers that would make everyone happy. As for my predators, live and let live for the moment.
For my Desert Cottontails, and Cottontails worldwide, seems a shame to kill them with gruesome diseases when folks are going hungry and they should be eaten instead. Hunters in hard hit areas were out shooting the rabbits to put them out of their misery. Nobody was eating them covered with tumors. 1,500,000 pounds of meat diseased in Australia alone, in one year. What if… they chose to market rabbit meat instead?
Comparably, due to overgrazing cattle cattle in west Texas, the place is over run with Mesquite trees. They go through massive expense to eradicate them. Someone asked me about how to destroy them. I said they are a valuable and free crop… the beans are edible, and flour from beans make food that stablizes blood sugar. Why would crazy people want to spend billions killing a cure for diabetes? Never mind Mesquite honey is a delicacy. Oops, mesquite barbecue. Oh yeah, solid Mesquite furniture in Mexico is beautiful and exported all over the world by tourists. We can’t bring jobs to West Texas! Irrational is as irrational does.
Hopefully our Desert Cottontails will be kept in check by predators, including humans, wolves, weasels, coyotes, hawks, puma, bobcat, and rattlesnakes. Hopefully our government won’t unleash a plague on our Desert Cottontails and we can eat them for years to come.