By: Cholla Nicoll, Borderlands Restoration Lead Technician
The Borderlands Wildlife preserve has many neighbors. One of these neighbors is Borderlands Restoration Network partner, Deep Dirt Farm (DDF). DDF is a permaculture education center inhabiting 34 acres of lush rolling hills and an ephemeral stream. Both local humans and wildlife enjoy this landscape. Recently a mystery burrow was discovered within DDF at the base of an old mesquite tree. Rumors were flying of mysterious sightings of rare animals coming and going from this area. Wildlife trail cameras were employed to solve the mystery!
Even I was captivated by the mystery, what could be living in the burrow? After several weeks of collecting camera data, the mystery was solved. The primary inhabitant was a cottontail rabbit who found its nooks and crannies the perfect hiding place from several critters who would love a rabbit dinner. There are two cottontail species found in the area, the eastern cottontail and the desert cottontail.
Cottontail rabbits rarely make it past their first birthday as most of them are successfully preyed upon, giving life to many other animals. To compensate for such a short life, cottontails pack much living into that first year. Female cottontails can start reproducing at three months of age and can have up to five litters of kits in a year in productive environments. The highest number of young are produced in the spring when forage is plentiful, and cottontails use burrows and lush vegetation to conceal their young. Mothers do not stay near their young to not attract predators, so if you find a baby cottontail, it is best to leave it where you found it and allow the mother to return once you leave. Cottontails get most of the water they need from their diets and happily drink from open water sources if available, but do not need them to survive. Cottontails are most active during dawn and dusk and generally have a home range of around 1 acre.
Rabbits were not the only visitors to the mystery burrow. A curious roadrunner stopped by, along with a gray fox and spotted skunk. Even a white-tailed deer snuck in a picture behind the burrow's tree. If there is a rare mystery animal in the area, it has maintained its secret for now. We will keep monitoring this site, hoping that we may get a glimpse into the cottontail rabbit's short but essential life and any common or rare animals it may attract.
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