Thursday, October 14, 2010

Blakeman on Bunny

Eastern Cottontail from the Stokes' blog:

Ohio biologist and hawk expert John Blakeman responds to the last two postings:

Obviously, the rabbits shown in the photos are not Eastern Cottontails. The fur color and shape of the animals are all wrong for a cottontail. This or these were someone’s "release" of a domestic pet. Most unfortunate (except for the hawk).
When released into Central Park, the poor creature would be quickly dispatched by any of the resident Red-tailed Hawks, who would have quickly detected the animal’s multiple vulnerabilities. Domestic rabbits can’t run well, and have no idea how to evade avian (or other) predators, or even have any pervasive understanding that they would ever have to do this. Just simply dumb, and unfit for survival in the wild, such as it so more naturally is in Central Park these days.
And the account of a captured cottontail being taken up into a tree is problematic. First, cottontails at this time of the year are too heavy for a red-tail to carry away. Lifting one into a tree is not possible for a red-tail. Earlier in the year, a red-tail could have grabbed a young, half-grown bunny and flown away with it. But by October, there are no such youngsters left.
The hawk could have, however, lofted a portion or remnant of a full-grown rabbit it had been eating on the ground, after capture. But the photograph of the hawk in a tree with prey does not look like it’s a cottontail. The fur doesn't appear correct. The hair is too short. I could be wrong on this, as we can’t see any head, or determine the real size of the creature.
–John Blakeman