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      The Nature Report: Rabbits

      Chances are if the Easter bunny visited your home recently, then it was in the form of the desert cottontail or the black-tailed jack rabbit.

      Both species are common to southernmost Texas. Cottontails and jack rabbits both have long ears, which are handy for detecting predators and help cool them by dissipating heat.

      Jack rabbits are so named because their super-sized ears resemble those of a jack ass. Nearly the entire state is home to the black-tailed jack rabbit, as these adaptable hares inhabit almost every county except the Big Thicket region of extreme southeastern Texas. The desert cottontail resides in the western half of the state and is common in Deep South Texas.

      They are about half the size of the jack rabbit. Mature jack rabbits weigh some seven pounds, and the big hares rely on blazing speed when they feel threatened.

      When a predator is detected the speedy rabbits can hit 40 plus miles per hour. These fertile "Easter bunnies" are a symbol of spring and rebirth when new life emerges after a long dark winter.

      They are prolific breeders and when food is plentiful females can conceive litters of up to seven young four or five times a year. One of the rabbits favorite foods are the fruits of the prickly pear cactus, and when the tunas ripen, the rabbits will dine on all the sweet delicacies that they can reach.