What Happened to the Rabbit’s Ear Tips?

I’ve seen a lot of Cottontail rabbits with the tips of their ears missing and wondered what cause that.  Are predators trying to snatch the rabbits and rip their ears instead?  Are the rabbits chewing on them because they’re mite-ridden or something?  Is it a kind of birth defect?

All of them are possibilities, but I found one source that suggested that the damage is usually caused by the rabbits’ mother when they’re newborns.  Mother rabbits enthusiastically eat away the placenta and umbilical cord, and clean off their bunnies when they’re born.  Sometimes, the mother gets carried away or misses the mark and inadvertently chews off the bunnies’ ear tips.  Some moms are even known to chew of the bunnies’ tales or feet!

“… Thankfully, only in a very small minority of such cases does this result in the death of the baby due to vital parts of the body being eaten as well.  Most of these accidentally mutilated baby rabbits grow up to lead normal lives…”

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Mary K. Hanson is a breast cancer survivor who, at age 61, took coursework to become a Certified California Naturalist. The author of “The Chubby Woman’s Walkabout”™ blog, Ms. Hanson has also written nature-based feature articles published in regional newspapers, authored over ten books, including her "Cool Stuff Along the American" series of guide books, and has had her photographs featured in books, articles, calendars, on the American River Parkway Foundation’s Instagram stream, and even the White House blog. This year Ms. Hanson is helping to launch and teach a new Certified California Naturalist course through Tuleyome, in partnership with the University of California and the Woodland Library, so members of the public can themselves become certified as naturalists in the state. All of the photos seen on her website were taken by Ms. Hanson herself (unless noted otherwise) with moderate- to low-end photographic equipment more easily affordable to the everyday nature enthusiast. She also occasionally leads photo-walks through the American River Bend Park for the public and is sometimes available for public speaking.