Rabbits & Hares – Chickens of the Predator World

Lagomorphs include hares, rabbits, and pikas. For this post, we’re concentrating on the first two, commonly seen in Nevada County. Hares and rabbits are fast-food for predators; coyote, fox, badgers, bobcat, hawks, owls, snakes, mountain lion, and squirrels. Dogs, cats, and humans hunt them too.

If you’re a top item on the predator menu, you develop and learn survival skills.

Similarities between Rabbits & Hares

Lagomorphs generally remain hidden for most daylight hours. Large ears with acute hearing and big eyes with 360° peripheral vision reduce being caught off guard.

Eyes and ears made for being ever watchful.

Both consume about a pound of grass per day and most of their water intake comes from dew.

Rabbits and hairs get most of their water from morning dew.

Hares and rabbits are thermoregulators. They conserve moisture by staying in the shade, stretching out, panting, and slowing metabolism. Large ear surfaces help cool the blood so it can lower body temperature. When it’s windy, they stay in hiding because the wind interferes with hearing.

Incisors grow throughout life.

Rabbits and Hares have four incisors, unlike rodents who have only two. Incisors grow continuously throughout life and must be kept in check by constant chewing.

Cellulose (in grass) is difficult to digest, so they do it twice by eating their own poop. A certain amount of ground food is diverted to a blind-ended pouch, the caecum. Once in the caecum, it’s mixed with micro-organisms, yeast, and bacteria that break the cellulose down into sugar.  This is known as hindgut fermentation. About four to eight hours after a meal (after dry pellets are excreted) a second set of soft, moist droppings are produced, cecotropes. These are eaten immediately to absorb the nutrients.

Defense Behavior

Thumping – warning

Ear flapping during the chase to distract predators.

Running, zig zagging and hiding.

Differences between Rabbits & Hares

Rabbits – 1.5 – 2.5 lb. (full grown)
Hares – 4.5 – 14 lbs (full grown)

Physical Differences
Rabbits – short legs and ears
Hares – long legs and ears

Rabbits – about 3 years
Hares – 6-7 years

Nests, Gestation & Young
Rabbits – uses burrows dug by other animals for nesting, lines it with grass and fur
22-28 day gestation |5 litters per year | 1 – 7 kittens

Hares – creates a nest from shallow depressions under bushes
41 -47 day gestation |3 -4 litters per year | 3 – 4 young (leverets)

Birth & Nursing
Rabbits are born hairless & closed eyes (altricial). Young are nursed for about a month.
Hares are born with full hair & open eyes (precocial). Young are nursed for only 2-3 days.

Rabbits are social. They huddle for security, perform group grooming to build relationships and prefer to remain in brambles and bushes.
Hares are solitary (except when mating) and prefers open spaces.

Eating Times
Rabbits – early morning & evening
Hares – nocturnal

Cottontail Rabbit

Mountain Cottontail, left. Desert Cottontail, right.

Range – California, and Oregon



Jackrabbits [Hares]

Pioneers coming out west called them ‘jackass-rabbits’ which was shortened to jackrabbit.  Though the name has ‘rabbit’ in it, these animals are hares.

Black-tailed Jackrabbit, left. Snowshoe Hare, center. White-tailed Jackrabbit, right.

When courting, Jackrabbits chase each other, playing hard to get. Boxing matches (teasing) are a sign of affection.


click image to see more Life on the Creek, Jackrabbit, and Cottontail art


If you liked this post, you may also like North American Beaver – Water Banker.


Taxonomy of Rabbits and Hares 0:28 – 2:15


Bioone.org – Ear Flashing Behavior in Black-tailed Jackrabbits

Canadian Journal of Zoology

California Department of Fish and Wildlife – Rabbits and Hares


Kahn Academy – Predatory-prey cycles

McGill Office for Science and Society – Rabbits Eat Their Own Poop

Wikipedia – Desert cottontail

Wikipedia – Lagomorpha – Hares & rabbits 

Wikipedia – Mountain Cottontail

Four-Eyed Banana Slug Wields Six-Fold Slime

The Ariolimax genus for the Pacific Banana Slug means “air slug.” It is a shell-less terrestrial gastropod mollusk and is the world’s second largest slug species.  Its lifespan is between one to seven years.

Photo Credit: David Connell, Nevada County Camera Club

Like the Pill Bug, much of a slug’s activities focus on water retention. Banana slugs keep to damp places under logs, inside tree bark, around rocks or planters. They are active at night and after rain when slime most effectively soaks-up surrounding water.


Color changes with age, health, exposure to light, diet, genetics, and the amount of moisture in the surroundings. While some Banana Slugs have black spots, this is not a way to distinguish between the Ariolimax subclasses; Columbianus and Californicus, both varieties found in California. (To make the distinction, see ‘Subclass Penis Particulars’ below.)


A slug’s mantle, the thick part behind its head, is the location of the slug’s single lung and reproductive organs. (It’s also where a shell would go, if it had one.) A large hole on the right side opens and closes according to oxygen needs. In dry weather or heavy rain, the slug completely closes its pneumostome. When it wants lots of air, it keeps it open wide.

Four Eyes:

With the ability to move eyestalks independently, the slug survey’s the environment. The top eye tentacles sense light changes and scans for threats. The bottom set feels and smells.


Slugs, like other forest floor dwellers, break down particles and nutrients that contribute to healthy plants. They are non-picky herbivores. They’ll eat; dead plants, fungi, animal droppings, and leaves.

Photo Credit: Richard Sullivan

Mushrooms are a favorite food.

Radula – sharp-toothed tongue

To eat, slugs have sharp-toothed tongues, radula, that grind particles to a pulp.


Slime is the Banana Slug’s superpower. It’s used to travel, rappel, communicate, mate, for personal hygiene and for self-defense.

Slugs generate several different types of mucus; thick and thin. (It’s similar to human mucus in nasal, lung, and intestinal linings.)

Slime contains mucins that inflate to one-hundred times their size when exposed to moisture.

When a slug wants to move, it glides where it wants to go, utilizing external moisture to plump-up slime roads.

Slime trails, sensed by the lower tentacles, tell an encountering slug the direction the other slug is moving. It also contains pheromones that trigger mating behavior.

Anesthetic compounds in slime cause numb feelings humans experience when licking slugs (why?!) and are part of the animal’s self-defense mechanism.

The Banana Slug’s tail contains a mucus plug; it makes ‘cords’ used to rappel down steep surfaces.

Finally, a slug’s got to look good. Mucus produced near the head, washes stuck-on body debris to the tail where the slug can eat it.



Although slugs have both male and female genitalia (hermaphrodite), they prefer to mate with a partner. Forming a circle, Banana Slugs swap sperm. A few days later, eggs are laid in moist secluded places such as in a log or a hole in the ground. Banana Slugs mate and reproduce year-round.

Photo Credit: Christopher,

It takes a month or two for eggs to hatch. When young are small and haven’t fully developed slime abilities, they are most vulnerable to predation.


Apophallation may be as interesting as slime. It’s when slugs become stuck in the mating position.

One or both animals chew off their penises.

Not to worry! Next time a penis-missing slug meets another, she’ll use her female reproductive parts.

Subclass Penis Particulars:

Distinguishing between Banana Slug subclass species takes a limacologist, a zoologist specializing in slug study.

Ariolimax Columbianus has a penis that sticks out / protrudes, top (apex) is rounded and blunt
Ariolimax Californicus has a penis can turn inside-out (like a vagina), top portion (apex) is equal to and can be greater in length to the basal portion. The muscle that pulls it back is shaped like a fan and is located at the penis tip.


Reptiles, birds, amphibians, fish and other mammals will prey on Banana Slugs.

When under siege, a Banana Slug contracts its muscles, making it more compact. It produces a sticky, foul-tasting. mouth numbing mucus making it a less appealing meal.




click image to see more Life on the Creek art

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The Ark in Space – The Banana Slug – Nature’s Giant Recycler
Bay Nature – Bizarre Banana Slug Facts
iNaturalist – Banana Slugs
Journal of Experimental Biology – The mechanics of the adhesive locomotion of terrestrial gastropods
Michigan Technological University – Invertebrates: Molluscs
Natural History Museum – How slug slime could help heal a broken heart ( tissue adhesives that perform well in wet environments)
PhysicsWorld – On the role of snail slime (fluid dynamics research)
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds – Non-toxic slug control in the garden
Science News for Students – Slip sliming away, scientists study how slime helps slugs and snails get around on only one foot
Scientific American – He Slimed Me! (mucins & anesthetic)
Terrestrial Mollusc Tool – Ariolimax Columbianus – Pacific Banana Slug
UCSC – Banana Slug Genomics
University of Michigan – Animal Diversity Web – Ariolimax columbianus
University of Puget Sound – Slater Museum of Natural History – Banana Slug
Wiki – Banana Slug Genomics
Wikipedia – Banana slug
Wikipedia – Slug 

Note: The spelling of Mollusc and Mollusk are both correct. The version with a ‘k’ is oldest. Unless a reference source used ‘c’, the ‘k’ version is used.


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