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Animal Database
Eastern Cottontail Rabbit
Cottontail Rabbit
Information
Range North America.
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Lagomorpha
Family Leporidae
Genus Sylvilagus
Species Sylvilagus floridanus
Conservation Status
LCSpecies
Least Concern

The Eastern Cottontail Rabbit is a New World cottontail rabbit, a member of the family Leporidae. Though native to only East of the Rocky Mountains, the Eastern Cottontail is the most common wild rabbit species in North America.

Appearance[]

The Eastern Cottontail has speckled brown-gray fur above, reddish-brown fur around its neck and shoulders, and lighter fur around its nose and on its undersides. Itss eyes are big and its tail is puffy white on the underside. In the winter, its fur may be more gray than brown.

Cottontails average between 15 to 18 inches long and weigh between two and three pounds.

Habitat and Range[]

ECR range

Map depicting the range of the Eastern Cottontail.

As its name suggests, the Eastern Cottontail Rabbit is found in the Eastern Americas from southeastern Canada to Northern South America. It has been introduced to Oregon and Washington and prefers open brushy or forest-border cover. They may venture into the open, though usually not far from dense, weedy cover.

Behavior[]

Frozen in fear

Cottontail rabbit in Washington frozen in fear at the sight of a camera.

Cottontails are mostly nocturnal, but can appear at early morning, dusk, and sometimes during dark days. Threatened rabbits either freeze in place to take advantage of their cryptic coloration or dart away in a rapid, zigzag manner. Running speeds of the Eastern Cottontail can reach eighteen miles per hour.

Eastern Cottontails are very territorial and aggressive towards other members of their species. A female's home range varies between one to fifteen acres in size, while a male's range can be as large as one hundred acres. Prior to mating, the male and female Cottontails display courtship behaviors that are called "cavorting". Displays observed in cavorting can include a great deal of running, racing, hopping, and even actual fighting. Fragments of hide and hair are sometimes scattered over several acres as a result of this pre-mating behavior. It is thought that the selective advantage of this behavior is to exclude sick, less agile or less aggressive individuals from the reproductive pool.

Mating can occur at any time between February and September. Cavorting typically occurs at night.

Life Cycle[]

Rabbit Kitten

Young rabbit in June that left its nest not long ago.

The female builds a nest, which is a depression in the ground lined with soft materials and fur from her own chest. About a month after mating, the female will give birth to one to nine bunnies, although only four to five usually survive. She feeds the young twice a day and are weaned after about three weeks and leave the nest after seven weeks. The female may mate again just hours after giving birth and she may have three or four litters a year. They reach sexual maturity relatively quickly; they are ready to mate at three months of age.

Diet[]

Cottontail munching

Cottontails are frequent visitors of lawns.

Cottontail rabbits are herbivorous, meaning they feed entirely on plants. Their preferred plants throughout the year are bluegrass, wheat, and white clover, but will also eat a large variety of wild and cultivated plants. During heavy snow, cottontails may subsist the woody parts of plants such as twigs and bark, as well as the sprouts of shrubs, vines, and trees.

Conservation[]

Despite their high fertility rates, populations have been declining in the East since 1995 due to habitat loss. They are also common victims of roadkill, rabbit control, and human hunting.

Works Cited[]

“Eastern Cottontail (Cottontail Rabbit).” Missouri Department of Conservation,

    https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/eastern-cottontail-cottontail-rabbit.

“Eastern Cottontail - Sylvilagus Floridanus - Natureworks.” New Hampshire PBS,

    https://nhpbs.org/natureworks/easterncottontail.htm.
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