Eastern Cottontails: Know Before You Mow!
Eastern Cottontails: Know Before You Mow!

SOUTHERN MARYLAND, Md. – Eastern Cottontails reproduce throughout the spring and summer, typically starting in mid-March and nesting through mid-September. With temperatures rising, it’s time for many of us to pack away the snow shovels and break out the lawnmowers – which means it’s also time to start keeping an eye out for baby bunnies and their nests!

Nests are found in shallow depressions on the ground [cottontails do not burrow]; nests are covered with soft grasses and are lined with tufts of the mother rabbit’s fur. Mother “doe” rabbits are very secretive, so they don’t draw attention to their nest; it is very rare that you will see a mother rabbit coming and going. The doe feeds her young only twice a day — at dusk and dawn. 

Eastern Cottontails: Know Before You Mow!

It’s a good idea to check your yard before you mow; because rabbits are in shallow nests, it’s easy to mow the “top” off of their nest, possibly injuring babies. Do not attempt to mow within 10 feet of a rabbit’s nest if there are babies present. You can protect a nest during mowing by placing a plastic lattice laundry basket upside down over the nest. It’s best to remove the basket after mowing. Leave the nest area as undisturbed as possible while the young rabbits grow.

Eastern Cottontails: Know Before You Mow!

If the nest must continue to be protected, cut a hole in the laundry basket very close to ground level about 3-4 inches in diameter so that the mother rabbit can enter/exit from either side. If you have a dog who has access to the nest/basket, place a very heavy rock or object on the overturned laundry basket (not so heavy as to crush the basket). Once the babies are gone, the basket can be removed and the nest destroyed if you are trying to prevent the nest from being reused.

Fun Facts About Eastern Cottontails:

  • The Wildlife Center treated 594 Eastern Cottontails in 2021. This was the most numerous mammal species admitted.
  • Like deer, a female cottontail is called a “doe” and males are called “bucks”.
  • If a rabbit is larger than a softball and weighs more than 4 ounces or 100 grams, it is on its and does not rely on care from the doe.
  • Rabbits are a high-stress species prone to a condition called capture myopathy, which is caused by chase and stress. Never chase a rabbit to capture it, even if it’s injured and needs rescuing. 

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  1. But, if you don’t spot them in time:

    1 Rabbit, cut into pieces 2 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
    2 Cups buttermilk 2-3 Cups Vegetable Oil
    1 Tbsp Paprika 2 Cups Flour
    1 Tbsp Garlic Powder 1 tspn Salt
    2 tspn Cayenne

    Note: It is highly recommended that you brine your rabbit before frying. A simple brine of ¼ cup of kosher salt to 4 cups of water will do. The rabbit is gonna get plenty of seasoning later. Submerge your bunny in this brine for up to 12 hours.

    1. Mix buttermilk with all the spices except the salt and flour.
    2. Soak the rabbit in the mixture, cover and let sit for at least 8 hours or overnight.
    3. When you are ready to fry, pour oil into a large pan and heat over medium high heat. The oil should come up half way on the rabbit pieces.
    4. Meanwhile, take the rabbit out of the buttermilk and let drain in a colander.
    5. DO NOT shake off the buttermilk.
    6. Let oil heat until it’s about 325º; this is the point where a sprinkle of flour will immediately sizzle. DO NOT let the oil smoke.
    7. When the oil is hot, pour flour and salt into a plastic bag and shake to combine.
    8. Put a few pieces of rabbit into the bag and shake to coat.
    9. Fry in batches, 12 to 15 minutes at a steady sizzle. Leave uncooked rabbit in colander until you’re ready to coat and fry.
    10. Turn rabbit and fry 10 to 12 minutes. The belly flap and forelegs will be done first, then the loin. The hind legs will finish last.
    11. When done, rest rabbit on paper towels to drain excess oil.
    12. Serve hot or at room temperature.

    1. That post is way too long for dumb dog to read, can you repost in kindergarten language?

  2. I have a baby cotton tail hes very cute and knows my smell he jumps right into my hand. I been feeding it and he must of been the runt..Im taking good care of him..he gets 2 bottle feedings. Very small…smaller than a soft ball.

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