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Florida Marsh Rabbit

Sylvilagus palustris paludicola

Description:

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).[3][4] 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.[3] Marsh rabbits display a blackish brown or dark reddish dorsal surface.[5] The belly is a dingy brownish gray in most but can also have a dull white appearance in mainland rabbits.[3][6] The leading edges of the ears display small black tufts with ochre on the inside.[4][6] 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.[6] 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.[6] Another curious feature observed in specimens from southern Florida is melanism. These individuals exhibit completely black phenotypic coloration that does not change seasonally.[4] 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.[4]

Habitat:

The marsh rabbit commonly inhabits brackish and freshwater marshes, mainly of cattails and cypress.[8] In southern Florida, they commonly occupy sandy islands and mangrove swamps.[4] They are strictly limited to regions with ready access to water, unlike most rabbits.[7] 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.[9]

Notes:

The rabbits in our yard are often seen throughout the day.

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sophoniar
Spotted by
sophoniar

Florida, USA

Spotted on May 15, 2013
Submitted on May 3, 2013

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