Eastern Cottontail Rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Lagomorpha
Family:    Leporidae
Size:    Length: 12 to 18 inches (30.5 to 46 cm)
Weight: 2 to 3 pounds (0.9 to 1.4 kg)
Diet: Clover, grass, berries, twigs, bark, buds, and garden vegetables
Distribution: Southern Canada, United States (East of the Rockies), Mexico, northwestern South America
Young:  Litter of 2 to 9, 3 to 5 times per year
Animal Predators:  Hawks, owls, opossums, coyotes, foxes, martens and weasels
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Female: Doe     Male: Buck    Young: Bunny
Lifespan: 1 to 3 years



·       Cottontails are featured in many children’s books.

·       Cottontails often go into shock when captured or handled.

·       Cottontails usually hop but they can also leap 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.5 m).



Cottontail have long ears and big eyes and are very curious animals that scan their surroundings while sitting up on their haunches with their forepaws tucked under their chins. Cottontails vary in colour from grey to brown and have rust spots on the back of their neck. They get their names from their fluffy tail that resembles a cotton ball. 



Cottontails are found in woods, meadows, farmland and brush, from southern Canada (Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec) through the United States (east of the Rockies), to Mexico and northwestern South America. Each rabbit has a territory of anywhere from one to 100 acres, marked with droppings. They use the empty burrows of other animals for escape or shelter during the day and rest in shallow nests during the night.


Feeding Habits

Cottontails eat clover, grass, berries, twigs, bark, buds, and garden vegetables. Gardeners sometimes plant clover—rabbits’ favourite food—around their gardens to keep the rabbits from entering and eating all the vegetables. Cottontails excrete two different types of droppings—hard and brown pellets, or soft and green. Cottontails will eat the soft green pellets to extract further nutrients and to help digest their food.



Rabbits can begin to mate at the age of two to three months. A female (also known as a doe) can have three to five litters of up to nine young per year. During mating, the buck will chase the doe, who will turn and face him, batting at him with her forepaws. The doe gives birth about a month after conception, in a grass and fur-lined nest she has prepared in advance in a hollow log or beneath a dense bush. The babies are born with no fur and their eyes closed. Within two weeks, their fur has grown in, their eyes have opened and they can begin to follow their mother out of the nest. Within three weeks, the young are weaned. By seven weeks, they will leave the nest. While the litter is still in the nest, the female will mate again and give birth at about the time the current litter begins to disperse. 



Eastern cottontails tend to be solitary and do not socialize with other rabbits. They are excellent swimmers who often evade enemies by jumping into a river or lake. They can also sit still for long periods to escape detection. Quick runners, cottontails can sprint up to 18 miles per hour to evade their many predators. They are mostly nocturnal, coming out from their burrows an hour after sunset and retiring again just after dawn. Active year-round cottontails do not hibernate.  



Cottontails are not of conservation concern at this time. Even though they have many predators and short lifespans, their numbers are in no danger of extinction, mainly due to their high rate of reproduction. 









Eastern Cottontail Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US