Marsh Rabbit: Sylvilagus palustris


The marsh rabbit is a slightly smaller, darker version of the more familiar eastern cottontail rabbit, which occurs in the eastern two-thirds of the United States and is best known for its conspicuous cotton puff tail. In contrast, the marsh rabbit has a small gray-brown tail.


It is found in the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains from Virginia to Alabama and throughout Florida. The marsh rabbit is distinguished from its cottontail cousin in another important way - it is a strong swimmer and is usually found close to water. In Florida, this habitat includes everything from fresh and brackish marshes to wet prairies and flooded agricultural fields.


Breeding occurs year-round but peaks December through June. On average, a female marsh rabbit produces six or seven litters of two to four young per litter each year. The nests are lined with grass and breast fur and located on the ground in thickets, stumps or logs. By four weeks of age, the young rabbits are weaned and are foraging for themselves. They eat a variety of plants found in and around wetlands. Marsh rabbits are most active at night and at dawn and dusk. So, too, are many of the marsh rabbit's predators - owls, foxes, bobcats and alligators. Hurricanes and coastal flooding also take a significant toll on rabbit populations, particularly young rabbits and nestlings.

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