There’s a New Kit in Town

By Rich Field, rich@richfieldproductions.com

Have you seen this rabbit?

Or, maybe his or her mate, sister, brother, or kit?

 Photo by Angela Iovino.

Photo by Angela Iovino.

If you have, the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) needs your assistance. DDOE is monitoring the population of eastern cottontail rabbits across the city. You can become a citizen scientist and play a vital role in helping protect and conserve rabbits in DC by recording your rabbit sightings and sharing them with the city’s biologists year-round. Data collected on this form is vital to DDOE’s monitoring efforts of the eastern cottontail in the district.

The eastern cottontail is currently listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) in the District’s Wildlife Action Plan, one of 56 plans that form a national network to prevent wildlife from becoming endangered. DDOE’s Fisheries and Wildlife Division has created a great wildlife action plan brochure that kids will love.

Here’s how you can identify this rabbit, which Wikipedia describes as “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. 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 (bunnies) develop the same coloring after a few weeks, but they also have a white blaze that goes down their forehead.”

Eastern cottontails eat vegetation almost exclusively, including bark, twigs, leaves, fruit, buds, fruit, seeds, and flowers—including my neighbor’s tulips! In summer, they consume tender green vegetation when available.

For more information on the Citizen Science program and how to become a volunteer, please contact Lindsay Rohrbaugh at citizen.science@dc.gov.