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Family Leporidae

Rabbits are separated from the hares by their proportionately shorter ears and hind legs. Their young are born blind, naked, and helpless, with their eyes tightly closed, in a carefully constructed nest. Cottontails are one of the most abundant mammals in the nation. A favorite target of hunters in the East, they have been widely studied for decades.

Eastern Cottontail Sylvilagus floridanus

Description: Brownish on back with tan on lower back and rump; cinnamon on sides extends down to white under parts; outside of ears are darker than back and whitish inside; white powder puff tail; 14 to 17 inches long; 2 to 4 pounds.

Similar species: Nuttall's cottontail-smaller size; lighter color; shorter ears. Desert cottontail-smaller in size; lighter color; longer ears. Jackrabbits and snowshoe hare-much larger.

Habitat/Distribution: Brushy areas, weed patches, and other areas with varied vegetation where soil is rich. Found in foothills along eastern edge of region, not found in RMNP.

Food: Summer-tender herbaceous plants; Winter-twigs and bark of young trees.

Active most of the night, cottontails spend their days resting in a small depression, called a "form," hidden in tall grass, in thick brush, or beneath a brush pile. Young are born anytime from March to September in a slight depression in the ground hidden by grasses. Adults may have three or four litters per year in good habitat.


(1) Mammals of The Central Rockies, Jan L. Wassink 1993 p. 136
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