Monty Python's killer rabbit has nothing on this brave bunny.
In a new YouTube video, a mother eastern cottontail discovers a snake preying on her babies—and mounts a relentless attack.
As the black rat snake tries to escape, the rabbit repeatedly pulls it back with a vicious bite, and, rolling on her back, kicks the writhing reptile in an attempt to disembowel it, explains Dana Krempels, a biologist at the University of Miami in Florida.
"Not so cute and cuddly, are they?" laughs Krempels, who has rescued and rehabilitated rabbits for 30 years. Though it may come as a surprise to many, "these are not timid little animals," she says. (Also watch: "Mother Owl Takes On Snake—and Wins.")
Mother rabbits are fiercely protective of their babies. Weak, slow, and helpless, their eyes don't even open until almost a week after birth, making them an easy dinner for many predators: Weasels, rats, cats, and of course snakes, to name a few.
The snake in the video, apparently shot somewhere in the eastern U.S., is a black rat snake, a common, non-venomous snake that squeezes its prey to death. Though the constrictor killed two of young bunnies, a third hopped away, apparently unharmed.
Snake in the Grass
To prevent leading such predators to the nest, a mother rabbit will hover nearby during the day—only returning at dusk and dawn to nurse.
If you listen to the beginning of the video, you'll hear a little squeaking noise: "That was the remaining live baby giving an alarm call," explains Krempels, and when mom hears the cry, she charges on scene. (Also see "Pictures: 10 Unusual Baby Animals You Don't See Every Day.")
The mother rabbit didn't succeed in disemboweling the snake with her clawed kicks, but she wasn't going to let it get away unscathed.
It's not about vengeance: Her goal was to both chase the snake out of her nest and hurt it enough so it wouldn't (or couldn't) come back, Krempels says.
Most baby rabbits are killed by predators while still in the nest, forcing them to leave it in as few as ten to twelve days. Even then, they continue to nurse from their mother, staying close for several more weeks.
In case you were wondering, eastern cottontail fathers don't have any role in raising—or protecting—their young, says Krempels: "It is pretty much 'Wham, bam, thank you ma'am.'"
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