Eastern Cottontail

Sylvilagus floridanus

Copyright, Stan Osolinski

The Eastern Cottontail is a common mammal that can be seen year-round. It has grayish-brown fur, with a reddish-brown neck, and a white tail.

Eastern Cottontails are easily recognized by their long ears.

This rabbit usually lives in brushy areas where it can hide. They can be found near almost any field or woods where there is protection. Some of their favorite places to hide are under small pine trees, shrubs, tangled vines, briers, and tall grasses.

 

Cottontails are mostly nocturnal, feeding at night, in the evening, and at dawn. They eat over a hundred different plants. They are not picky and will eat bark, stems, leaves, twigs, branches, flowers, buds, seeds, fruits, and grasses. They tend to eat certain foods, depending on the season. In the Summer they eat more grasses and weeds. Come Winter, they switch to twigs and bark.

Eastern Cottontails breed frequently. The males fight each other during breeding season, and do a "dance" for the females. Females make a nest lined with plant parts and fur from their belly. The nest is in the ground and shallow. It's usually covered by more plants. Mothers nurse their young in the morning and evening. Eastern Cottontails will have three to four litters every year, up to nine young per litter.

One reason rabbits breed so often is because they are preyed upon by many different animals. Most rabbits live about a year. Some predators of Eastern Cottontails are raccoons, foxes, hawks, owls, crows, snakes, opossum, cats, and dogs.

Copyright, John White

Copyright, Gene Ott

Because Eastern Cottontails eat so many plants, they poop a lot. You can recognize it by the pile of dark-brown pea-size pellets. They actually have two different kinds of poop. One is the regular kind. The other is soft and green. Sometimes rabbits will eat very quickly and then go somewher undercover and safe. They will drop these green pellets and eat them again later.

Eastern Cottontails usually hop to get around, but they can run fast for short distances to avoid danger. They usually run in a zig-zag manner to break the scent trail. They can also leap up to 15 feet.

Cottontails can swim, but don't seem to like getting wet.

In cold weather, Eastern Cottontails will take cover in old burrows, especially Woodchuck burrows.

Sometimes these rabbits can be seen standing on their hind legs to look around.

Bill Dunn, Huntley Meadows Park

Additional Media

Description
Type
Credit
Baby Eastern Cottontails
Sound
Gene Ott

Relationships in Nature:

FOOD
PREDATORS
SHELTER
OTHER

Common Dandelion

Red Fox

Virginia Pine

Woodchuck SP

English Plantain

Raccoon

Eastern White Pine

Eastern Blood-sucking Conenose Pa

Switchgrass

Virginia Opossum

Sassafras

American Dog Tick Pa

Red Clover

Great Horned Owl

Yellow Poplar

Highbush Blueberry D

Eastern White Pine

Barred Owl

Bracken Fern

Carolina Chickadee SP

Virginia Pine

Red-tailed Hawk

Eastern Redcedar

Smooth Crabgrass D

Red Maple

Striped Skunk

Greenbrier

American Holly D

Poison Ivy

Common Crow

Spicebush

Poison Ivy D

Evergreen Blackberry

Black Rat Snake

Smooth Sumac

Eastern Redcedar D

Smooth Crabgrass

Copperhead

Pokeweed

Flowering Dogwood D

Goldenrod

Sarcoptic Mange Mite

Witch Hazel

Wild Grape D

Sassafras

Bald Eagle

Loblolly Pine

Greenbrier D

Yellow Poplar

Common Elderberry

Blue Bottle Fly Pa

Eastern Redcedar

Cinnamon Fern

Smooth Sumac D

Mockernut Hickory

Evergreen Blackberry

Pear-shaped Puffball D

Sweetgum

Japanese Honeysuckle

Devil's Beggar-tick D

Flowering Dogwood

Green Hawthorn

Sarcoptic Mange Mite Pa

Bracken Fern

Lamb's Quarters

Chigger Pa

American Beech

Common Ragweed

Black Locust

Virginia Rose

Relationship to Humans:

Eastern Cottontails help people by consuming large amounts of weeds. Unfortunately, they will also eat garden plants and vegetables. If you have rabbits living in your yard, you are more likely to see predators, such as hawks and owls.

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM
Animal
PHYLUM
Chordate
CLASS
Mammal
ORDER
Lagomorpha
FAMILY
Leporidae
GENUS
Sylvilagus
SPECIES
Sylvilagus floridanus

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