There's a story behind today's nature update!

There's a story behind today's nature update!

There's a story behind today's nature update!

I have a nice neighbor who comes and cuts and bales the hay on my old family property. He started cutting the hay a couple days ago, and as I was walking through a newly-cut field taking nature photos, I nearly tripped over a rabbit nest!

These baby rabbits are almost certainly eastern cottontails (Sylvilagus floridanus). When rabbits are ready to give birth, they dig a slanted hole in some soft soil and line the hole with plant material and fur. The mother will come by the nest to nurse about twice per day. The babies begin to open their eyes around four to seven days, which leads me to believe that the babies in this litter were less than a week old! Baby eastern cottontails begin leaving the nest for brief trips after about two weeks. After four to five weeks, they're weaned and much more independent, and by seven weeks, they disperse from the nest!

If you find a rabbit nest, it's best not to disturb it. I had already disturbed this one by nearly tripping over it, but fortunately, the babies were unharmed. If you do disturb a rabbit nest, just do your best to repair it. Mother rabbits return to their nests as long as they're safe and there are no predators around.

Of course, after finding the nest, it occurred to me that while my neighbor had cut the hay, he hadn't baled it yet. Although the babies somehow survived the cutting of the hay, I wasn't as confident they would survive the baling process.

So I put up the sign in the third picture.

My neighbor probably thinks I'm weird. #BenInNature

This post brought to you by VMNH Supporters Janet and Richard Ashby.

Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. While he is working from home, Administrator of Science Ben Williams is venturing outdoors each day to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world.

If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!

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