WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY – LOPATCONG, NJ
This photograph of an Eastern Cottontail Rabbit was taken in Lopatcong, New Jersey, a fairly rural area using a Nikon D200 attached to a Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6g IF-ED AF-S DX VR lens.
The Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) is a New World cottontail rabbit, a member of the family Leporidae. It is one of the most common rabbit species in North America. The eastern cottontail is chunky red-brown or gray-brown in appearance with large hind feet, long ears and a short fluffy white tail. Its underside fur is white. There is a rusty patch on the tail. Its appearance differs from that of a hare in that it has a brownish-gray coloring around the head and neck. The body is lighter color with a white underside on the tail. It has large brown eyes and large ears to see and listen for danger. In winter the cottontail’s fur is more gray than brown. The kits develop the same coloring after a few weeks, but they also have a white blaze that goes down their forehead; this marking eventually disappears. This rabbit measures 36–48 cm (14–19 in) in total length, including a small tail that averages 5.3 cm (2.1 in). Weight can range from 800 to 2,000 g (1.8 to 4.4 lb), with an average of around 1,200 g (2.6 lb). The female tends to be heavier, although the sexes broadly overlap in size.
Optimal Eastern Cottontail habitat includes open grassy areas, clearings, and old fields supporting abundant green grasses and herbs, with shrubs in the area or edges for cover.The essential components of eastern cottontail habitat are an abundance of well-distributed escape cover (dense shrubs) interspersed with more open foraging areas such as grasslands and pastures. Habitat parameters important for eastern cottontails in ponderosa pine, mixed species, and pinyon (Pinus spp.)-juniper (Juniperus spp.) woodlands include woody debris, herbaceous and shrubby understories, and patchiness. Typically eastern cottontails occupy habitats in and around farms including fields, pastures, open woods, thickets associated with fencerows, wooded thickets, forest edges, and suburban areas with adequate food and cover. They are also found in swamps and marshes and usually avoid dense woods. They are seldom found in deep woods.