Marsh Rabbit: Sylvilagus palustris
The marsh rabbit is a slightly smaller, darker version of the more familiar eastern cottontail rabbit, which is best known for its conspicuous cotton puff tail. In contrast, the marsh rabbit has a small gray-brown tail.
The marsh rabbit is found throughout Florida. It 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.
Marsh rabbits eat a variety of plants found in and around wetlands. They are most active at night, dusk and dawn, the same time many of the marsh rabbit's predators — owls, foxes, bobcats and alligators — are active as well.
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 are located on the ground in thickets, stumps or logs. By four weeks of age, the young rabbits are weaned and are foraging for themselves.
Hurricanes and coastal flooding can take a significant toll on marsh rabbit populations, particularly young rabbits and nestlings.