Eastern Cottontails are very common all across North Texas. Many–if not most–neighborhoods in the DFW metroplex have a healthy population of these little rabbits. They make their living by feeding on the grass and weeds in our lawns. If your yard has tasty ornamentals or a vegetable garden, well then those plants can be fair game as well.
Cottontails spend their downtime tucked away and hidden under the landscaping around our homes. There they rest and recuperate in relative safety. All in all, our neighborhoods create pretty good habitats for these little rabbits, and they thrive here among us.
That’s not to say the the suburbs are without challenges. As it turns out, Eastern Cottontails are on the menu for almost every predator found in North Texas. In our subdivisions it is Bobcats, Coyotes, and various raptors that hunt cottontails most frequently. Cats and dogs can cause problems for these rabbits as well.
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of living in the suburbs for cottontails is simply crossing the road safely. For a number of reasons these rabbits fail to navigate this commonplace hazard with disturbing regularity. And when an Eastern Cottontail is hit by a car, it usually does not take long before the unfortunate event is noticed by nature’s cleanup crew–the vultures.
In North Texas we have two species of vultures on the job–the aptly named Black Vulture, and the browner and pink-headed Turkey Vulture. Either or both are likely to partake of road kill in our neighborhoods. In the case of this deceased cottontail, it was a pair of Black Vultures that were first on the scene.
Vultures are not shy about coming into our neighborhoods to feed on road kill. They do it with some regularity. These two Black Vultures seemed to be old pros at it, judging from their expertise handling the automobile traffic that interrupted their meal.
Several cars came through while I was photographing this scene. Each time the surprised and somewhat puzzled drivers were forced to stop by the two big black birds blocking the road.
Eventually, the unsure drivers would begin cautiously inching forward, slowly encroaching on the vulture’s comfort zone. At some point, the stubborn birds would break and give ground, begrudgingly retreating to the sidewalks. Each displaced vulture would retire to a separate side of the street. Once the cars had passed, the two birds would gleefully lope back into the road to continue their meal.