Cottontails and Deep Snow

Deep, fluffy snow that accumulates over an extended period of subfreezing weather lacks a solid base to facilitate surface snow travel. Mammals like mice, voles, weasels and red squirrels adapt by living under the fluff, tunneling, foraging and resting in the humid, insulated habitat layer where ground meets snow (the subnivean zone).

On the contrary, the Eastern Cottontail Rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus) typically travels and forages above the snow, and is severely limited by deep powder. Their home range might shrink from 10 or 20 acres to a single thicket with a large pile of brush or Groundhog hole at its core, a quality piece of habitat with sufficient food and cover to “weather the storm”.

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Rabbit at rest in a thicket of Multiflora Rose

Usually active in poor light or darkness (crepuscular) this bunny was on the run in fresh, deep (about 12 inches) powder, moving from one evergreen thicket to another in daylight. I was caught completely off guard, with camera settings more appropriate for a songbird portrait, but share these images for their graphic portrayal of the movement, and vulnerability, of a Cottontail Rabbit in deep, fluffy snow.

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

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10 thoughts on “Cottontails and Deep Snow

  1. How much fun! Looks like a cartoon, only real! Thanks, Nick!! I am safely home and deeply appreciate your kindness!

  2. I love the action shots. I’m so glad you posted them. I feel bad for all the critters having to deal with this rather harsh winter back there.

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