If you live in the Conejo Valley, a very familiar sight is this valley's namesake, "the Conejo".  In Spanish, "conejo" means rabbit and that is what the early Spanish explorers wrote about when describing this area.  There are two types of rabbits seen around here.  The desert cottontails which have bright white tails and dark-tipped ears.  The bush cottontails are smaller that the desert cottontails and have less vibrant colors.  

Because they are abundant in numbers, it can be tempting to take these little creatures for granted, but this week's newsletter will look at all of the amazing characteristics you will find in our local rabbits.
To protect themselves from predators, the bush cottontails will either sit perfectly still for long periods of time, or if chased, they will run in a zigzag patters at 20-25 mph.  
Family Life
When a bush cottontail finds a home, it usually stays within one acre of that home for the rest of its life.  The only time it ventures outside that home area is if food is scarce or a predator chases it beyond its home boundaries.  Cottontails are the only species of rabbits that do not burrow tunnels underground.  Instead, they dig nests in holes they find or under leaves and debris where they will not draw attention from other creatures.  

Although several rabbits may be spotted in a same area, they stay relatively distanced from each other except during mating season.  

A mama rabbit may have up to 35 babies in one year.  Rabbit babies are called "kits". When the kits reach 3 months old, they can begin reproducing and having babies themselves.  

Rabbits have the potential to live 8-10 years, but due to the fact that so many creatures depend of them for food, they usually only live about three years in the wild. 
Rabbit in Need?
If you find a baby wild animal, it is best to leave it alone. Many mammals such as deer and rabbits leave their young unattended for extensive periods of time. Only State Certified Wildlife Rehabilitators are legally allowed to possess native wildlife species including mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles.

Improper care of wild animals by well meaning, untrained individuals yields either imprinted wild animals (animals that cannot be released back into the wild) or animals that have nutritional issues resulting in life-long health issues. Inexperienced caregivers also risk serious health problems due to disease and parasite transmission from wild animals.

Most “babies” that are seen are probably on their own and have already left their parents. Baby rabbits are on their own by the time they are 3.5 inches in length.  

If you do finds a wild rabbit that looks like it is in need, here are some quick recommendations: 

Sick/Injured Adult Rabbits

  • Get a box and line it with a large towel or newspaper on the bottom.
  • Throw a towel over the rabbit’s face and body.
  • Pick up the rabbit by the body and place them in the box.
  • Seal the box. Place it in a quiet, dark location (for example, a bathroom) until you reach CA Wildlife Center staff. Place a heating pad set to low under half of the box.
  • Do not offer any food or water.
  • Rabbits die very easily from stress.  Limit all talking, loud noises, and handling.

 Orphaned Baby Rabbits

  • It is a federal offense to keep native wildlife as pets.
  • Juvenile rabbits are independent of their parent when they are about 4″ long, have full fur and erect ears.
  • Orphaned baby bunnies will need immediate care from a licensed rehabilitator.
  • Get a box and line it with a towel on the bottom.  Make air holes.
  • Pick up the baby bunnies by the body and place them in the box.
  • Seal the box.  Place the box in a quiet, dark location (for example, a bathroom) until you reach CA Wildlife Center staff.  Place a heating pad set to low under half of the box.
  • Do not offer any food or water.

Contact California Wildlife Center:
Rabbit Diet
Rabbits are herbivores. They graze on a wide variety of grasses and plants in grasslands, meadows, and riparian areas, always within, or very close to, dense brushy cover. Brush rabbits also graze, especially in fall and winter, on tender leaves, twigs, buds, and the bark of blackberry, wild rose, and other species.

Rabbits' upper front teeth grow continuously, which allows the rabbits to munch away without wearing them down. Actually, rabbits must gnaw to keep them “filed” to the proper length–teeth that get too long or become maladjusted can prevent them from eating and lead to starvation.

You may also see a rabbit eat something that looks very similar to its own droppings.  In additional to their waste, rabbits produce something called cecotropes.  Cecotropes are pellets that contain proteins, fiber, B and K vitamins, other nutrients, and gut microbes that are essential in the digestion of solid food. Adult rabbits of all species produce and eat their cecotropes to re-ingest nutrients, consuming them directly from their anus as they are expelled. Because the cecotropes are ingested by the rabbit, they’re rarely seen. The round, brown pellets we see rabbits leave behind on the ground are true feces.
Where in the Conejo Valley can you spot a rabbit?
Here's a fun montage of conejo photos and footage from the ring of trails surrounding the Conejo Valley along with some local history.

Conejo Joe has a fantastic collection of wildlife videos in the area.  Be sure to explore his YouTube Channel for other videos of rabbits and hiking trails here:
Rabbit Games

Pin the Tail on the Rabbit:

Draw a rabbit on a large piece of paper.

Roll up a piece of tape and put it on the back of a cotton ball. Make as many cotton ball tails as you have players.

Blindfold players one at a time and have them try to attach the cotton ball tail in the correct spot.

The closest one wins!

Rabbit Race:

Have all the players sit in a circle.

One player is a rabbit. The rabbit hops around the circle holding a basket. The rabbit places the basket behind one on the seated players. That player must run after the rabbit and try to tag them.

If the rabbit sits down at the spot that the player left, that player now becomes the rabbit.

If the player tags the rabbit before he sits down, the rabbit continues play as the rabbit and repeats the process.

The Rabbit Listened
Our family has a pet rabbit named Peter.  We sometimes nickname him the "Therapy Bunny" because whenever any of us are having a hard time, we sit with Peter in our lap and after a few short minutes, we feel calm and so better.  It feels as though Peter listens to us.  

The video below is a reading of the story, "The Rabbit Listened".  It is a sweet story about how the rabbit simply listens and allowed the little boy to feel better after his loss.  
To read earlier issues of the Conejo Valley Nature Club Newsletter visit: 
If you would like this information in a format you can distribute to your class, let's chat! Email Christina at naturekidsactivities@gmail.com
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