Prevent Hare Loss
By Vern and Lori Gieger
though the terms hares and rabbits are used interchangeably, there are
subtle differences. Although they belong to the same family, rabbits
and hares are not the same animal. Rabbits and hares are physically
different, starting with birth.
Whether they are a hare or rabbit, they
are cute and fuzzy! Hares and rabbits belong to the mammal order Lagomorpha.
There are more than 50 species of rabbits, and hares, and, no, they
are not rodents. Actually, These gentle, harmless animals are more closely
related to horses than they are to rodents.
Of the many species in the rabbit family,
some are in serious trouble as a result of human activities. Of the
15 species found in Mexico, one specie critically endangered (Omiltemi
Rabbit is thought by some scientists to be extinct); sadly, the status
of at least eight other species is considered to be endangered or threatened.
One of these, the volcano rabbit serves
as an example of the plight of lagomorphs in many regions of the world.
The volcano rabbit is restricted to pine forests with undergrowth of
bunch grasses at high altitudes in the regions around Mexico City. The
primary habitats are on the sides of volcanoes. Some scientists believe
that this species possibly has the most limited geographic range of
any Mexican mammal. The volcano rabbit is currently listed as an endangered
species, and is protected by Mexican wildlife laws. Human-started fires,
agriculture, development, and over grazing by domestic stock have resulted
in major habitat loss. Commercial exploitation of the forests and bunch
grasses are a further threat to the special habitat required by volcano
rabbits. Most of the threats come as no surprise; they are the state
of affairs for many if not most of the wild animals in todays
Wild rabbits are high on the menu of many
different species of predators. They have enemies everywhere. Buzzards,
owls, and golden eagles attack them from above. They are chased and
caught by foxes and wildcats. Babies are dug from their nest burrows
by badgers. Even adult rabbits living underground are not safe, family
groups of stoats and weasels hunt rabbits in an organized fashion. The
average lifespan of a pet rabbit is six to eight years (12 is a record),
but wild rabbits are lucky if they make it to their first birthday. And
you thought you were having a bad hare day!
Rabbits are opportunistic and omnivorous
their diet includes mostly fungi, plants, roots, tree bark, fruit, snails
and worms. Rabbits provide benefits other species as well. (Besides
being high on the menu.) Their burrowing loosens soil, helping new plants
take root, and unused burrows provide shelter for other animals. Not
to mention rabbit droppings make good fertilizer.
The old age adage breeds like rabbits
doesnt hold up here, though, rabbits in general are noted for
being prolific. If they dont have the habitat to support them,
they too will die out. So, the next time you see a little cottontail
hopping along, wish him well, and be glad you had the opportunity to
If you encounter a wild animal that needs
help, call L.W.R.R. 765-4916