When you are the number one item on the outdoor menu then you have to always be on alert. Richard Moore takes us out for a visit with the ever-vigilant Cottontail rabbit.
As this Cottontail rabbit warily approaches a brush country pond, the bunny trembles with acute alertness for any hint of danger. With nose aquiver and ears cocked to detect any unusual smell or sound, the rabbit is poised to flee in an instant at slightest threat.
The rabbit is wary for good reason, as when you are on the menu of just about every South Texas carnivore, then you have to be quick to take cover.
Cottontail rabbits are most active at the crepuscular hour, that is dawn and dusk, and they are also nocturnal.
During the day and night, there are an alarming abundance of predators desirous of dinning on rabbit. A sharp-eyed bobcat could pounce at any moment, a stealthy ocelot would relish a tasty cottontail, and the wily coyote is always a threat.
Perhaps, the most formidable foe is the Great-horned owl, the largest owl in South Texas. With a wingspan of some four feet, powerful talons and a razor sharp beak, the owl can swoop soundlessly with lethal impact.
During the day, Harris’s hawks are a constant menace, and since they are often communal hunters they pose a significant risk.
As the nervous cottontail nears water’s edge, there is always potential for the deadly strike of a diamondback rattlesnake laying in ambush.
Perhaps, the most critical moment comes when the rabbit finally lowers its head to drink. The slightest lack of attention could invite attack from above or even from the pond itself in the form of a large Indigo.
However, this is one lucky rabbit, and despite the imminent danger, the life giving water is irresistible, so the cottontail drinks long and deep before scurrying back into the cloaking brush.