Rabbit: Sylvilagus floridanus
The cottontail is grayish-brown in color, has a distinctive white "powder puff" tail, measures 14 to 17 inches in length and weighs two to four pounds. The marsh rabbit is slightly smaller, darker brown, and has coarser hair than the cottontail. It has a small inconspicuous tail that is dingy white on the underside and will often walk rather than hopping as most rabbits do.
Two species of rabbits occur in Florida, the Eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) and the marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris).
The cottontail rabbit prefers a habitat of heavy brush, strips of forest, weed and briar patches, abandoned fields and fringe areas of cultivated fields.
Periods of peak activity for cottontails occur in early morning and at night. Swamp and marsh rabbits utilize wet bottomlands, swamps, marshes and hammocks. The swamp and marsh rabbits move about much more during daylight than the cottontail.
The breeding season for both species is nearly year-round, but mainly February through September. The young are born from March through September after a gestation period of 26 to 30 days. Females may have three to four litters with from four to seven young in a single year. Rabbits nest on the ground and the young are born with eyes closed.
Rabbits are strictly vegetarians with their main food being green plant parts during the warmer months. The marsh and swamp rabbits will also eat rhizomes and bulbs. When green vegetation is not available, rabbits will eat young woody shoots and bark.
Image Credit: Craig Faulhaber