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Sylvilagus palustris paludicola
Marsh rabbits are typically smaller than eastern cottontail rabbits. Adults from the Florida peninsula typically weight around 2.2 - 2.6 lbs (1.0 - 1.2 kg) with a total length up to 17 in (43 cm). Adults from the mainland regions typically grow larger up to 3.5 lbs (1.6 kg) and upwards of 17.5 in (44 cm). The hind feet of mainland rabbits are also larger at 3.6 in (9.4 cm) compared with 3.5 in (8.9 cm) of peninsular Florida rabbits. Marsh rabbits display a blackish brown or dark reddish dorsal surface. The belly is a dingy brownish gray in most but can also have a dull white appearance in mainland rabbits. The leading edges of the ears display small black tufts with ochre on the inside. rough hair on the dorsal side can be fringed with black hairs. The black portions of the upper parts often change to a dull grayish buff in spring and summer months, returning to a reddish or ochre color in fall, followed by darker black in the winter. Rabbits of peninsular Florida typically display darker and redder colors with a cinnamon-rufous nape, feet, and legs. Juveniles display much darker and duller colors than adults. One feature that distinguishes marsh rabbits from swamp rabbits and cottontails is that the underside of the tail is almost never white but more brownish gray. Another curious feature observed in specimens from southern Florida is melanism. These individuals exhibit completely black phenotypic coloration that does not change seasonally. Marsh rabbits have a number of features that distinguish them from cottontails and swamp rabbits. The short ears and legs are much smaller than that of a swamp rabbit. The tail is also much reduced from the bushy tail seen in cottontails.
The marsh rabbit commonly inhabits brackish and freshwater marshes, mainly of cattails and cypress. In southern Florida, they commonly occupy sandy islands and mangrove swamps. They are strictly limited to regions with ready access to water, unlike most rabbits. Often, they will enter tidal marshes, but remain near high ground for protection. Normal hiding spots include dense thickets of magnolia, black-gum, sweet-gum, briers, and cattails.
The rabbits in our yard are often seen throughout the day.