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Thumper & Rosie, the Desert Cottontail Look-Alikes

Thumper was found near the river when he was about 4 weeks old. He was very tiny and could fit in the palm of your hand. He had been mauled by a dog or coyote and had multiple wounds on his back. Interestingly, it was obvious that he experienced some human contact because his wounds had been treated with an old-fashioned disinfectant called “gentian violet”, which leaves a very obvious purple stain.

Thumper’s markings were distinctive of a Desert Cottontail, but as he grew bigger and bigger, we wondered if Thumper might be a domestic bunny because Desert Cottontails are usually smaller. Thumper weighs 8 pounds, whereas a wild Desert Cottontail will only weigh an average of two to three pounds. Thumper is also very friendly with people and wild Cottontails have a natural fear of humans. Our theory is that Thumper is a domestic bunny with Desert Cottontail markings.

Thumper has a lot of favorite foods including lettuce, spinach, broccoli, most fruits, and of course, carrots! Wild Cottontails are herbivores and they eat a wide variety of plants, including grasses, forbs, shrubs and even cacti. However, ninety percent of their diet is grass. Cottontails are coprophagic, meaning they eat their own feces. Since grass is difficult to digest, the rabbits eat the first-formed set of pellets after a meal to extract additional nutrition during the second digestive process. Pellets from the second set are very hard, fibrous and lack nutrition.

Rabbits are social animals and need to have a buddy to live with. Thumper found a companion in Rosie, another domestic bunny found running loose in a neighborhood. Rosie was adopted from F.U.R. (Friends of Unwanted Rabits) by Splash in 2012.

Cottontails are named after their tail, which looks like a white, cotton ball. The Cottontail’s tail functions as an alarm signal. When a rabbit raises its tail, the large white patch of fur on the bottom is exposed, serving as a warning signal to other Cottontails. Their white tail is often visible as they run. When alarmed, a Cottontail can run up to twenty miles per hour in a zigzag pattern to escape predators.

Thumper is now ten years old. Maybe someday, DNA testing can give us an answer to our theory that Thumper is a domestic bunny with Desert Cottontail markings.

Learn about Black-tailed Jackrabbits, another species of bunny that’s native to California!

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