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CONTENTS

Living OrganismsAnimalia / Craniata / Mammalia / Lagomorpha / Leporidae / Sylvilagus / Species

Sylvilagus aquaticus - Swamp rabbit (Click photographs/illustrations for full picture & further details)

 

INDEX - INFORMATION AVAILABLE

GENERAL & REFERENCES

APPEARANCE / MORPHOLOGY

LIFE STAGES / NATURAL DIET / PHYSIOLOGY

BEHAVIOUR

HABITAT & RANGE

CONSERVATION

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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Cane cutter. (B430.w2)
  • Sylvilagus attwateri. (B607.w20)
  • Sylvilagus telmalemonus. (B607.w20)
  • Sylvilagus aquaticus aquaticus. (B430.w2, B605.5.w5, J469.151.w1)
  • Sylvilagus aquaticus littoralis. (B430.w2, B605.5.w5, B607.w20, J469.151.w1)
  • Lepus aquaticus. (J469.151.w1)
  • Lepus telmalemonus (J469.151.w1)

Names for new-borns / juveniles

Names for males

Names for females

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General Appearance

Adult:

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • This species is the largest of the genus Sylvilagus. (B605.5.w5)
  • Ears medium-sized in relation to body size, general colour rusty brown to blackish, with a prominent cinnamon-coloured ring around the eye , usually black vibrissae, and white underparts. (B430.w2, B605.5.w5, J469.151.w1)
  • "All cottontails have relatively large ears and feet." (B605.5.w5)

Newborn: --

Similar Species

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

Sexual Dimorphism

--

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References

Species Authors & Referees

Author: Kathryn Pintus BSc MSc MSc (V.w115); Dr Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)

ORGANISATIONS

ELECTRONIC LIBRARY
(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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Husbandry Information

Notes

  • --

Management Techniques

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Appearance / Morphology

Measurement & Weight

Notes

LENGTH
Adult:

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • This species is the largest of the North American cottontails. (B430.w2)
  • Unlike the other members of the Sylvilagus genus, there is no significant size difference between the sexes in this species. (B147, B430.w2, B605.5.w5, J469.151.w1)
  • Range: 452 - 552 mm (average 501 mm). (B430.w2, J469.151.w1)

Newborns:

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • Total length: 130 mm (Sample size = 4). (B287)

HEIGHT
Adults and sub-adults: --
Juveniles: --

WEIGHT
Adult:

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • 1,646-2,668 g. (B430.w2)
  • 2,000 g. (B605.5.w5)
  • Males 1816 - 2552 g (average 2235 g). (J469.151.w1)
  • Females 1646 - 2668 g (average 2161 g). (J469.151.w1)

Newborns:

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • Average: 53.5 g; Range: 48.5-56.9 g. (Sample size = 6; all from one litter). (B287, J469.151.w1)
  • 55.7 g (Sample size = 1). (B287)
  • Average: 61.4 g. (Sample size = 18). (B287, J469.151.w1)

GROWTH RATE --

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Head and Neck

Notes

Note: There is very little data specific to this species so the majority of details below are from general lagomorph, leporid and cottontail information.

GENERAL HEAD STRUCTURE:
Adult:

  • Ears 60 - 80 mm (average 70 mm). (J469.151.w1)
Sylvilagus spp. General Information:
  • Ears
    • "The ears vary in size among the species but are generally of medium length for the Lagomorpha." (B147)
    • "All cottontails have relatively large ears." (B605.5.w5)

Newborn: --

DENTITION:
Adult:

General Information

  • Rabbits and hares have a total of 28 teeth. (B285.w5a)
  • The lower tooth rows are closer together than the upper tooth rows. (B147)
  • Lagomorphs differ from rodents by having two pairs of upper incisors rather than just the one pair. The additional set of incisors are called peg teeth and are found directly behind the long pair in the upper jaw. (B147, B285.w5a, B605.1.w1)
  • At birth, lagomorphs actually have three pairs of upper incisors, but they quickly lose the outer incisor on each side. (B147)
  • The incisors are covered completely by enamel. (B147)
  • The upper incisors' roots are found in the skull's premaxillary bones. However, the length of the lower incisors' roots varies. (B147)
    • [Note: lagomorphs have teeth which grow throughout their lives. For this reason the portion of the teeth which is not exposed (not above the gum line) is strictly speaking not a "root"; however, it is sometimes convenient to describe it as a root.]
  • The first upper incisors have a straight cutting edge. (B147)
  • The peg teeth lack a cutting edge. (B147)

EYES:
Adult:

General Information

  • Lagomorph eyes are positioned such that they allow for good broad-field vision. (B285.w5a)
  • Hares and rabbits have large eyes which are adapted to both their crepuscular and nocturnal activity patterns. (B285.w5b)
  • Leporids have "large eyes to increase visual acuity in dim light." (B430.w2)

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • This species has prominent, cinnamon-coloured rings around the eyes. (B430.w2)

Newborn:

Sylvilagus spp. General Information:

  • Born blind; the eyes open at two to 10 days of age. (B287)

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Legs, Spine and Tracks

Notes

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • Hind foot length range 90 - 113 mm (average 101 mm). (J469.151.w1)

Sylvilagus spp. General Information:

  • Relatively large feet. (B605.5.w5)

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Tail

Notes

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information
  • Range 50 - 74 mm (average 59 mm). (B430.w2)
  • Underside is white. (B430.w2)

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Skin / Coat / Pelage

Notes

Adult:

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • The upperparts are rusty brown to blackish, and the underparts, including the underside of the tail, are white. (B430.w2, B605.5.w5)
  • This species has prominent eye-rings which are cinnamon-coloured. (B430.w2, B605.5.w5)

Sylvilagus spp. General Information:

Adult Colour variations: --

Newborn / Juvenile:

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • Born with short fur (5 mm), dark on the back, sides and throat, tan/black mixed on the top of the head, white on the chin and belly. (J469.151.w1)

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Detailed Anatomy Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

Notes

Skull

Sylvilagus spp. General Information:

  • Species of this genus have an interparietal bone. (B605.5.w5)
  • The skull has a highly fenestrated maxillary bone. (B605.5.w5)
Female reproductive tract

Sylvilagus spp. General Information:

  • Females have four or five pairs of mammae. (B147, B287)
Male reproductive tract

Lagomorph general information

  • Male lagomorphs lack a baculum. (B147)
  • Testes of lagomorphs are in the scrotum located in front of the penis. (B147)

Sylvilagus spp. General Information:

  • Males have inguinal and coagulating glands. (B287)

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Life Stages / Natural Diet / Physiology

Life Stages

Notes

BREEDING SEASON:

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • This species breeds year-round, at least in the southern parts of its range. (B147)
  • The Swamp rabbit generally breeds between late January and August, though this varies slightly throughout its range. (B430.w2)
  • The breeding season usually starts in February in the northern parts of their range, and it is thought to breed year-round in the more southerly parts of its range. (B605.5.w5)
  • Breeds year-round in Texas and on the Gulf Coast. (B430.w2)
  • "The breeding season of the swamp rabbit varies throughout its range and from year to year." (B605.5.w5)
  • The breeding season lasts longer in lower latitudes than in higher latitudes. ((J469.151.w1))
  • In mid-southern USA, this species mates between January and September. (B287)
  • In northern Alabama, this species mates in February. (B287)
  • In northern Alabama, mating starts occasionally in late January, more usually mid-February; in southern Alabama it starts earlier. (J469.151.w1)
  • In Missouri, breeding starts early to mid-February and the peak continues to mid-June. (J469.151.w1)
  • In Louisiana, they may breed practiacally all year (reproted every month except October) and they are thought to breed all year in Texas. Pregant females have also been found in Georgia in September. (J469.151.w1)
  • In crowded conditions, juvenile females may start breeding a month after adult females, while in lower density populations they may breed at the same time. (J469.151.w1)

OESTRUS / OVULATION:

General Information

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • A postpartum synchronous breeder; oestrus probably usually lasts less than an hour. (J469.151.w1)
  • Cycle length: 12 days. (B287, J469.151.w1)
  • Anoestrus: 
    • In Maryland, USA: November to January. (B287)

GESTATION / PREGNANCY:

General Information

  • Under adverse conditions (such as during climatic or social stress), female lagomorphs are able to resorb embryos. (B285.w5a)
  • It is thought that some lagomorph species are able to conceive a second litter even before the last young is born; this is known as superfetation. (B285.w5a)

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • The gestation period of this species is approximately 37 days. (B430.w2)
  • Gestation period: 39-40 days. (B285.w5c)
  • Gestation period is between 35 and 40 days, most commonly 36 or 37 days. (B147, J469.151.w1)
  • Gestation period: 35-40 days. (B287)
  • Pregnant females have been reported in captivity between February and September. (B287)
  • Mississippi: Pregnant females found from February, though it uncertain when the season ends. (B287)
  • Increased resorption of litters in crowded conditions (e.g. related to flooding); this is probably due to adrenal stress syndrome. (J469.151.w1)

PARTURITION / BIRTH:

General Information

  • Newborn rabbits are born with very little or no fur, and their eyes do not open until 4-10 days after birth. (B285.w5b)
  • Rabbits produce altricial kittens (B285.w5b, B430.w2) which are born into fur-lined nests built either under dense cover or within underground chambers. (B285.w5b)

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • In northern Alabama, litters are born from mid-March to August. (J469.151.w1)

NEONATAL / DEVELOPMENT:

General Information

  • Born furred but blind. Eyes open between 2 and 10 days of age. (B287)
  • Young are only suckled briefly once every 24 hours. (B285.w5b)
  • Rabbit kittens remain together within their breeding chambers. (B285.w5)

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • At birth, the young lack any fur and their eyes are tightly closed. (B430.w2)
  • Neonates covered in short (5 mm) fur; eyes closed. (J469.151.w1)
  • Females will often adopt orphaned rabbits from other nests. (B430.w2)
  • Young open their eyes at 2 - 3 days of age. (B285.w5c)
  • Eyes open at 5 - 8 days. (J469.151.w1)
  • Young leave nest between 10 and 17 days of age, though they are still nursed. (B287)
  • Leave the nest at 12 - 15 days. (J469.151.w1)
  • Young of this species reach adult size at 23 - 30 weeks of age. (B147)
  • Reach adult size at about 10 months old. (J469.151.w1)

LITTER SIZE:

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • Usually three young per litter. (B430.w2, J469.151.w1)
  • Between one and six young per litter. (B287, B605.5.w5, J469.151.w1)
  • In east-central Texas, 2.8 per litter; in southern Louisiana, 3.7 (for a sample size of only litters). (J469.151.w1)
  • The size of the first litter is smaller than the size of the second litter, e.g. average 2.8 and 3.2 respectively in Alabama, 2.7 and 4.1 in Missouri. (J469.151.w1)
  • Litter size may be larger in yearlings than in older females (small differences, not statistically significant). (J469.151.w10

TIME BETWEEN LITTERS / LITTERS PER YEAR:

General Information

  • The inter-birth interval in lagomorphs is reduced by the phenomenon of induced ovulation, and post-partum oestrus, which allows females to conceive immediately after she has given birth. (B285.w5a)
  • A female can produce up to three or four litters per year. (B430.w2)

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • Captive females of this species have been known to produce up to eight litters per year. (B147)
  • Each female may produce between two and five litters per year. (B605.5.w5)
  • Average: 3.09 litters per year; range: two to five (sample size = 34 litters from 11 females). (B287)
  • Captive females produced one to three litters in one pen study, and two to five litters in another study (two litters in 27%, three in 46%, four in 19% and five in 9% of females). (J469.151.w1)

LACTATION / MILK PRODUCTION:

General Information

  • Leporids only release milk once in every 24 hour period. (B285.w5b)
  • Leporid milk has a very high fat and protein content, and as such is highly nutritious. Although the lactation period is brief, the milk is pumped into the young at a high speed.(B285.w5b)
  • The lactation period has a duration of between 17 and 23 days. (B285.w5b)

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • Nursing occurs at dawn and dusk. (B430.w2)
  • The female will nurse the young for a while after the young have left the nest. (B430.w2)
  • Young leave nest between 10 and 17 days of age, though they are still nursed. (B287)

SEXUAL MATURITY:

General Information

  • Most species of lagomorph reach sexual maturity relatively early. (B285.w5a)

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • Between 23 and 30 weeks for both sexes. (B287)
  • Capable of breeding at 23 - 30 weeks, but do not usually breed at this age. Males may start mating in December of the year of their birth, i.e. at the start of the following breeding season. (J469.151.w1)
  • Males:
    • Sperm: three to six months of age. (B287)

MALE SEASONAL VARIATION: --

LONGEVITY / MORTALITY:

General Information

  • Rabbits and hares in the wild live for less than a year on average; a maximum age of 12 years has been recorded in a couple of species. (B285.w5b)

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • Average life span about 1.8 years. (J469.151.w1)
  • Main causes of mortality are hunting and prolonged flooding of marshes. (J469.151.w1)

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Natural Diet

Notes

NATURAL DIET:

General Information

  • Lagomorphs only eat vegetation, mainly grasses and other herbaceous plants. Bark from young trees and small shrub stems may be eaten when food supplies are scarce. (B147, B285.w5c, B430.w2)

Sylvilagus spp. General Information:

  • Cottontails eat a wide variety of plants, the majority of which are herbaceous species. (B147, B285.w5c)
  • During the winter months in colder regions, cottontails feed on the bark and twigs of woody vegetation. (B147, B285.w5c)

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • The Swamp rabbit feeds on a variety of plant species, but tends to prefer sedges and grasses, and sometimes tree seedlings. (B430.w2)

  • Various grasses, forbs and sedges, particularly Carex and other sedges. (B605.5.w5)

  • Wide variety of plants including Bignonea capreolata, sedges, Rhus radicans, grasses, Smilax spp. tree seedlings, swamp grass (Carex lupulina), blackberry (Rubus sp.), hazelnut (Corylus sp.), deciduous holly (Ilex decidua), spicebrush (Lindera benzoin) and seedlings of bald cypress (Taxodium distichum). (J469.151.w1)

QUANTITY EATEN: --
STUDY METHODS: --

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Hibernation / Aestivation

Notes

  • Active year-round. (B147)

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Haematology / Biochemistry

Notes

HAEMATOLOGY: --

BIOCHEMISTRY: --

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Detailed Physiology Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in WILDPro)

Notes

Note: There is very little data specific to this species so the majority of details below are from general lagomorph, leporid and cottontail information.

METABOLISM (TEMPERATURE): --

RESPIRATORY SYSTEM (RESPIRATION): --

CIRCULATORY SYSTEM (PULSE/HEART RATE): --

GASTROINTESTINAL SYSTEM (FAECES AND GUT MOTILITY):

General Information

  • Lagomorphs have digestive systems which are adapted for processing large quantities of vegetation. (B285.w5a)
  • Lagomorphs are well adapted for obtaining the greatest possible value from their food. They produce two types of fecal material: moist pellets and dry pellets. The moist pellets are expelled and then eaten (a behaviour known as coprophagy (B285.w5a)); this is done with little or no chewing, and as a result the majority of the food passes through the digestive tract twice (this is thought to have the same function as 'chewing the cud' in ruminants). The dry faecal pellets are not eaten. (B147)

URINARY SYSTEM (URINE): --

CHROMOSOMES:

MUSCULO-SKELETAL SYSTEM: --

SPECIAL SENSES AND VOCALISATIONS:

General Information

  • Whereas pikas tend to be more vocal, rabbits and hares rely strongly on scent rather than sound as a means of communication. (B285.w5b)
  • High-pitched distress squeals are emitted by leporids when captured by a predator, and specific alarm calls are produced in five rabbit species. (B285.w5b, B430.w2)
  • Some rabbit species thump the ground with their hind feet when faced with danger (B285.w5b, B430.w2); this reaction is thought to be a warning to nestlings underground. (B285.w5b)
  • The conspicuous white underside present on the tails of some rabbit species can act as a visual warning to other individuals when fleeing from a predator. These species tend to be found in more open habitats. (B285.w5b)

Sylvilagus spp. General Information:

  • Rarely vocalise. (B285.w5c)
  • "Several species utter squeals and high-pitched calls of distress." (B147)

Scent

General Information

  • All lagomorphs use scent products secreted from special glands. (B285.w5a) These glands are located under the chins and in the groin, and are believed to play a key role in sexual communication, as well as in signalling social status in some gregarious species. (B285.w5b)
  • This species uses scent marking in social behaviour. In particular, males use scent from a gland under the chin to mark their territory. (B147, B430.w2, B605.5.w5)

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Behaviour

Feeding Behaviour

Notes

General Information
  • Lagomorphs are well adapted for obtaining the greatest possible value from their food. They produce two types of fecal material: moist pellets and dry pellets. The moist pellets are expelled and then eaten; this is done with little or no chewing, and as a result the majority of the food passes through the digestive tract twice (this is thought toe have the same function as 'chewing the cud' in ruminants). The dry faecal pellets are not eaten. (B147)

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • Feeds mainly at dusk. (B430.w2)
  • Feed at night. (J469.151.w1)
  • Practice coprophagy during the day. (J469.151.w1)

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Parental Behaviour

Notes

Note: There is very little data specific to this species so the details below are from general leporid and cottontail information.

General Information

  • Male leporids are not generally involved in care of the young. However, if adult females attack young leporids, males will intervene, a behaviour known as 'policing'. (B285.w5b)
  • Even maternal care of the young is not particularly prominent in leporids, hence this reproductive strategy is known as 'absentee parentism'. (B285.w5a)
  • Leporids demonstrate an unusual system of nursing; the young are suckled only briefly (often less than five minutes) just once every 24 hours. (B285.w5b)
  • It is thought that the lack of social contact between the mother and her young is a strategy which diminishes the chances of attracting the attention of predators. (B285.w5b)
  • The entrances to breeding tunnels are carefully re-sealed following each bout of suckling (B285.w5b)

Sylvilagus spp. General Information:

  • The females of most species of Sylvilagus dig nest holes, about 100-150 mm deep and 120 mm wide; sometimes slanted, and both lined and covered with soft plant fibres and the female's own fur, which she plucks from her underside.  (B147)
  • The female does not herself live in the nest. To feed the young she crouches over the nest, the kits climbing to the top of the nest to nurse. (B147)

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Social Behaviour / Territoriality / Predation / Learning

Notes

SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR:

General Information

  • Most North American leporid species are solitary, but congregations of these animals often occur in favoured feeding grounds. (B430.w2)
  • Rabbits are solitary to gregarious. (B430.w2)

Sylvilagus spp. General Information:

  • Most species within this genus are solitary. (B147)
  • May chase off other individuals if they approach too closely. (B147)
  • "Not colonial, but some species form social hierarchies in breeding groups." (B285.w5c)
  • "Cottontail behavior is stereotyped and fairly consistent with other rabbit species." (B605.5.w5)
Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information
  • Males of this species fight one another, and establish dominance hierarchies. (B147)
  • "Swamp rabbits exhibit a linear dominance hierarchy among males that does not include females." (B605.5.w5)
  • Linear dominance hierarchies established among males, which then prevents fighting, with alpha males particularly dominating their immediate subordinates while subordinate animals try to minimise contact with high-ranging males. The top males have most access to females, with most mating being carried out by the alpha male. The females were noted to show mutual tolerance of one another. (J469.151.w1)
  • Breeding groups consisting of several animals are formed, which are controlled by a dominant male. (B605.5.w5)
  • The male dominance hierarchy has the following characteristics:
    • During reproduction activities, there is less overt aggression between conspecific males. (B605.5.w5)
    • "...restriction of dominant-subdominant challenges between adult males." (B605.5.w5)
    • A direct relationship is seen between the frequency of dominance displays by the male, and social status. (B605.5.w5)
    • There is a direct relationship between male-female interactions and the social status of the male. (B605.5.w5)

PREDATION: 

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • This species is thought to suffer little from predation. (B430.w2)
  • May be chased by dogs. (B430.w2)
  • Not much predated, but predators include Aligator mississippiensis - American alligator (Alligatoridae - Alligators & Caimans (Family)). They are also caught by domestic dogs. (J469.151.w1)
Predator Avoidance

General Information

  • Rabbits use dense cover to hide from predators. (B285.w5b)

Sylvilagus spp. General Information:

  • When under threat from a predator, cottontails sit completely still and remain quiet, even when closely approached. They are capable of staying like this for 15 minutes if necessary. (B147)

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • Often takes to water when chased by dogs. (B430.w2)
  • These rabbits will use a variety of manoeuvres to confuse predators, including walking along an object such as a log, then backtracking, then jumping off to one side. (J469.151.w1)
  • One rabbit chased by a dog was seen to swim under a bank and stay in the water with only its nose and eyes above the water surface. (J469.151.w1)
POPULATION DENSITIES

Sylvilagus spp. General Information:

  • "Population levels vary markedly between species and from year to year, depending on climate, habitat type and other factors." (B605.5.w5)
  • Cottontails tend to be cyclic in abundance. (B605.5.w5)
  • "Habitat is the key to cottontail abundance." (B605.5.w5)
    • Desert species: normal densities are thought to be less than one rabbit per hectare. (B605.5.w5)

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • In timbered habitat, population densities were estimated to be two rabbits per hectare. (B605.5.w5)
  • In Indiana canebrake in fall (autumn), one per 2.4 hectares estimated, with 50 - 55% of the population being juveniles. (J469.151.w1)
HOME RANGES AND DISTANCES TRAVELLED

Sylvilagus spp. General Information:

  • The home ranges of females are generally smaller than those of males. (B147)
  • These species have stable home ranges of a few hectares which overlap. (B285.w5c)

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • Home range: 0.84-7.64 hectares. (B147)
  • The home ranges of this species vary in size, but are never thought to be greater than approximately eight hectares. (B430.w2)
  • Average 7.6 hectares (18.9 acres) in one study. (J469.151.w1)
  • Home range:
    • Male: 1.0 hectares. (B605.5.w5)
    • Female: 0.5 hectares. (B605.5.w5)
    • Male: 1.9 hectares (4.6 acres) (seven adult males); calculated maximum males 3.2 hectares (7.9 acres). (J469.151.w1)
    • Female: 2.4 hectares (5.9 acres) (seven adult females); calculated maximum 2.2 hectares (5.5 acres). (J469.151.w1)
TERRITORIALITY

General Information

  • Ranges of individuals may overlap in favoured feeding grounds. (B285.w5b)

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • Territorial species. (B430.w2, B605.5.w5, (J469.151.w1))
  • This species maintains a territory. It does so partly by scent marking and through vocalisation. (B147, B430.w2, (J469.151.w1))
  • Males practice "chinning" - this involves marking his territory with pheromones secreted from a gland on his chin. (B430.w2, (J469.151.w1))
  • "...males may maintain their dominant status from year to year." (B605.5.w5)

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Sexual Behaviour

Notes

General Information
  • All lagomorphs use scent products secreted from special glands. (B285.w5a) These glands are located under the chins and in the groin, and are believed to play a key role in sexual communication, as well as in signalling social status in some gregarious species. (B285.w5b)

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • Males of this species "...are known to fight one another and to establish dominance hierarchies that determine mating priority." (B147)
  • Breeding groups consisting of several animals are formed, with a dominant male controlling each group. (B605.5.w5)
  • The male dominance hierarchy has the following characteristics:
    • During reproduction activities, there is less overt aggression between conspecific males. (B605.5.w5)
    • "...restriction of dominant-subdominant challenges between adult males." (B605.5.w5)
    • A direct relationship is seen between the frequency of dominance displays by the male, and social status. (B605.5.w5)
    • There is a direct relationship between male-female interactions and the social status of the male. (B605.5.w5)
    • The alpha male is the individual responsible for most mating. (J469.151.w1)
  • Prior to mating, behaviours include:
    • female chasing or threatening male;
    • dash by male;
    • jump sequence;
    • chasing of the female;
    • copulation. 

    (J469.151.w1)

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Activity Patterns, Self-grooming and Navigation

Notes

ACTIVITY PATTERNS:

Sylvilagus spp. General Information:

  • Active year-round. (B147)
  • The majority of species move by characteristic bunny hopping. (B147)
  • It is thought that all species are capable of swimming. (B147)

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • This species is a strong swimmer. (B285.w5c, B430.w2, J469.151.w1)
  • This species seems to prefer resting in the following sites:
    • Brush-covered logs and stumps.
    • Cane patches.
    • Honeysuckle tangles.
    • The low crotches of trees.
    • Open, grassy areas in floodplains.

    (B430.w2, J469.151.w1)

SELF-GROOMING: --
CIRCADIAN RHYTHM:

Sylvilagus spp. General Information:

  • Mostly nocturnal or crepuscular. (B147)
  • Cottontails are sometimes seen during daylight hours. (B147)
  • Active at night or during the day. (B285.w5c)

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • Activity starts in the evening, getting later as sunset gets later, particularly for females and low-ranking males. (J469.151.w1)
  • In late spring and summer, the active period starts well before sunset, while in late winter and early spring it starts during twilight. (J469.151.w1)
SPEED OF MOVEMENT:

General Information

  • The North American leporids are able to escape predators by taking instant flight at high speed. (B430.w2)
NAVIGATION: --

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Habitat and Range

General Habitat Type

Notes

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information
  • Swamps and lowlands near water. (B147)
  • Swamps, river bottoms and lowlands od sub-tropical areas; never far from water (rivers, streams, swamps). (J469.151.w1)
  • Marshy lowlands. (B430.w2)
  • "Favored resting sites include the tops of brush-covered stumps and logs, the low crotches of trees, honeysuckle tangles, cane patches, and open, grassy places in floodplains." (B430.w2)
  • This species is found in swamps, river bottoms and lowland areas of subtropical regions. (B605.5.w5)
  • This species is always associated with water. (B605.5.w5)
  • "Its distribution in the north is limited to the southern swamp forest community-type at about the 24oC isotherm." (B605.5.w5)
  • "In the northern portion of their range, swamp rabbits are found in mature forests and regenerating forest tracts 15 years old...and in canebrake communities." (B605.5.w5)

Sylvilagus spp. General Information:

  • The presence of escape cover is an essential habitat requirement for these species. (B605.5.w5)

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Nests / Burrows / Shelters

Notes

Sylvilagus spp. General Information:

  • Cottontails are not thought to dig burrows. (B147)
  • Some species are known to make use of burrows made by other animals. (B147)
  • Also take shelter in brush piles and forms. (B147)
  • Several forms may be connected by flattened trails made through regular use of pathways. (B147)
  • "All species occupy burrows made by other animals or inhabit available shelter or hide in vegetation." (B285.w5c)
  • The females of most species of Sylvilagus dig nest holes, about 100 - 150 mm deep and 120 mm wide; sometimes slanted, and both lined and covered with soft plant fibres and the female's own fur, which she plucks from her underside.  (B147)
  • The female does not herself live in the nest. To feed the young she crouches over the nest, the kits climbing to the top of the nest to nurse. (B147)

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • Holes in the ground and in trees are used as form sites. (J469.151.w1)
  • Sites reported as form sites include tops of vegetation-covered stumps, crotches of trees, logs, cane patches, open grassy places and tangles of Japanese honeysuckle. (J469.151.w1)
  • The nests of this species "...are located on top of the ground and consist of dead vegetation pulled around an inner lining of fur." (B147)
  • "Nests are constructed against or under fences, the bases of trees, brush and lumber piles, and abandoned buildings." (B430.w2)
  • Nests are about 4 - 7 cm deep, 15 cm wide and 18 cm high, with side entrances. (J469.151.w1)
  • One nest was found on the ground in a heavy patch of weeds; there was an inner lining of fur, surrounded by dead weed stalks. (J469.151.w1)

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Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Notes

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information
  • Found in the USA from Texas to Georgia. (B51)
  • This species is found in southern Illinois and southwestern Indiana, southwestern Missouri to southeastern Kansas, and southwards to extreme western Kentucky and western Tennessee, Also to eastern Oklahoma, eastern Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and northwestern South Carolina. (B607.w20)
  • South-central USA. (B147)
  • North America along the Gulf coast, including Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, also parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina. (J469.151.w1)
  • The Swamp rabbit is found "...along the Gulf Coast from South Carolina to Texas, and occurs north into Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Tennessee." (B430.w2)
  • This species is found in the following areas:
    • Eastern Texas.
    • Eastern Oklahoma.
    • Alabama.
    • Northwestern to South Carolina.
    • Southern Illinois.

    (B285.w5c)

  • "The swamp rabbit is found in southeastern United States...including the states of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina." (B605.5.w5)

  • Some adequate habitat has been lost on the periphery of its range. (B605.5.w5)

Geographic Sympatry

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Conservation

Species variation

Notes

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information
Currently recognised subspecies include:
  • Sylvilagus aquaticus aquaticus: (B430.w2, B605.5.w5, B607.w20) including Sylvilagus aquaticus attwateri, Sylvilagus aquaticus telmalemonus. (B607.w20)
    • Found in "...southern Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, extreme southeastern Kansas, eastern Oklahoma and Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas to the coastal lowlands, and northern Georgia." (B430.w2)
    • This is the northern form of this species, and is associated with mature forests. (B605.5.w5)
    • The range of this subspecies has decreased in the northern part of its range in the USA. (B605.5.w5)
  • Sylvilagus aquaticus littoralis. (B430.w2, B605.5.w5, B607.w20)
  • Sylvilagus aquaticus littoralis
    •  Found in "...coastal lowlands from Aransas County, Texas, through Louisiana and Alabama to Mobile Bay, Mississippi." (B430.w2)
    • This is the southern form of the species, and is associated with coastal and riparian areas. (B605.5.w5)

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Conservation Status

Notes

WILD POPULATION - IMPORTANCE:

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • This species has disappeared from many areas in Indiana in which it used to be found. (B147)
  • This species is common, though its range is diminishing in the north. (B430.w2)
  • Abundant, despite some reductions in its range. (B605.5.w5)

GENERAL LEGISLATION: --

CITES LISTING: --

RED-DATA LIST STATUS:

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • IUCN - Lower Risk (least concern). (W2.Apr08.w74)

THREATS:

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • Kentucky: Habitat destruction. (B147)
  • Indiana: Habitat destruction and excessive hunting. (B147)
  • Land-use changes; from hardwood forests to row crops. (B605.5.w5)
  • In the northern part of its range in the USA, habitat alteration and riparian drainage poses a threat to Sylvilagus aquaticus aquaticus. (B605.5.w5)

PEST STATUS / PEST POPULATIONS: --

CAPTIVE POPULATIONS: --

TRADE AND USE:

Specific Sylvilagus aquaticus Information

  • This is an important game species which is managed in the USA by state wildlife agencies. (B605.5.w5)
  • Is an important game animal in Louisiana. (B605.5.w5)
  • Particularly important as a game species in the Gulf States. (B605.5.w5)

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