- Common Name(s): Rabbit, Bunny, Bunny rabbit, Hare, Eastern Cottontail
- Order: Lagomorpha
- Family: Leporidae
- Common Species: Sylvilagus floridanus-Eastern Cottontail
- Commonly Confused With: N/A
How to Identify?
As it is one of the most common rabbits in Georgia, I will focus mostly on the characteristic information of the eastern cottontail rabbit. The eastern cottontail rabbit weighs between 2-4 pounds. They are brown, tan, or gray in color with a white, fluffy tail. They have pretty long ears, but the ears are not as long as the ears of hares. Their back legs are long and designed for jumping and the young are hairless. The young of hares have fur, and their ears are much longer and larger than those of rabbits and are black at the tip.
Where do they live?
Hares and rabbits can both be found in North America. Rabbits prefer to live near open, abandoned fields that have tall grass and plenty of foliage on the outskirts for protection. A major part of a rabbit’s habitat is having plenty of brush to escape into when predators come around. They can also be observed in forests or on farmland that meets their basic needs. Their nests are ground burrows (often built by other animals) in grassy fields, thickets, or along the edge of the forest. The inside is lined with grass, weeds, and/or fur. Hares do not dig or live in burrows underground but instead spend their whole lives living above ground.
What do they eat?
The primary food source of rabbits is plant-based material (bark, twigs, leaves, seeds, fruits, and vegetables), though they have been known to eat arthropods (insects and related species) on occasion. In colder weather, they will eat a wider variety of food due to the lack of available resources.
What do they do?
As you may have guessed, rabbits are agricultural pests due to their diet. When food is scarce, or when living in close proximity to humans, rabbits can destroy gardens, damage lawns, and encourage predator species, like bobcats or foxes, to come around.
Rabbits are a contributing factor to the spread of tularemia. If you are interested in knowing more about this disease and its effects, please visit the following link provided by the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/tularemia/index.html
- South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. (n.d.). Wildlife – Species: Eastern Cottontail Rabbit. Retrieved December 26, 2018, from http://www.dnr.sc.gov/marine/mrri/acechar/speciesgallery/Mammals/EasternCottontailRabbit/index.html
- Sullivan, Janet. 1995. Sylvilagus floridanus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. Retrieved December 26, 2018, from https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/animals/mammal/syfl/all.html
- The Pennsylvania State University. (2013, October 8). Virtual Nature Trail at Penn State New Kensington-Species Page Sylvilagus floridanus. Retrieved from https://www.psu.edu/dept/nkbiology/naturetrail/speciespages/cottontail.htm
Author: G. Wyatt West– B.S.E.S University of Georgia 2017; Board Certified Entomologist
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