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.