“Here comes Peter Cottontail, hoppin’ down the bunny trail…” Beatrix Potter (1866-1943), well-known English author and conservationist, was certainly referring to a European cottontail (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in her familiar Easter children’s rhyme, but its North American cousin graces the Ballona Wetlands. You can frequently see Desert cottontails (Sylvilagus audubonii) on the trails surrounding the Ballona Freshwater Marsh southwest of the Lincoln-Jefferson intersection. The good rains this winter ensure lush upland vegetation necessary to the cottontail’s diet. Expect to see larger numbers of the bunnies this year compared to the last few, since the rabbits’ reproductive fecundity is in part regulated by the available food supply, which is good this spring. Raptors (birds of prey) naturally prey on cottontails at the Ballona Wetlands, and you can often see Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) circling over the area, searching for the rabbits and other small mammal prey. If aware of attack, the cottontail normally escapes by running away in evasive zigzags; at speeds of over 30 km/h (19 mph). Motorists unintentionally kill cottontails. Startled by oncoming noise and lights, a cottontail may mistakenly dart out in front of a vehicle instead of into the brush. Drive slowly when motoring along Jefferson or Culver… Read full this story
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