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Species Description

Marsh Rabbit

Sylvilagus palustris


Species Image

Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Lagomorpha
Family: Leporidae

Description

Fur is reddish brown to blackish brown. The venter is grayish brown to buff. The tail is dingy gray to bluish gray. Total length ranges from 40 - 45 cm (15.7 - 17.7 in). The ears of the Marsh Rabbit are noticeably shorter than those of the Eastern Cottontail.

Life Cycle

Like other southeastern rabbits, this species breeds throughout the year. After a 30 - 37 day gestation, 3-5 young are born in a nest made of dried grasses and lined with the soft under-fur of the female. The nest is placed in a shallow depression on the surface of the ground. Young remain in the nest until they are weaned. A mature female may produce 5 or 6 litters per year. The young rabbits may reach sexual maturity before they are a year old, and many females will breed at this time.

Natural History

Like the Swamp Rabbit, the Marsh Rabbit inhabits coastal marshes, bottomlands, and swamps. It is also found on isolated islands in coastal river deltas and sounds. The Marsh Rabbit is nocturnal, foraging at night for food. It eats cane, cattail, rushes, and the leaves and twigs of woody plants. During the day, the Marsh Rabbit remains hidden in a shallow depression, called a "form," dug from the soil beneath dense brush or other vegetation. Major predators of Marsh Rabbits include hawks, owls, small carnivores, and the American Alligator. The young are eaten by large snakes.

Range

Marsh Rabbit Region Map The Marsh Rabbit's range is restricted to the Coastal Plain of southern Alabama northeastward to extreme southeastern Virginia. It also occurs throughout Florida and on the larger Barrier Islands of the Carolinas. The Marsh Rabbit is found throughout the Coastal Plain of Georgia.

Conservation Status

In Georgia, the hunting season for Marsh Rabbits is from mid-November to February.

Similar Species

The Eastern Cottontail has a white venter, and the underside of its tail is white.