Virginia.gov

marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris palustris)

Distribution Map

Distribution Map

Characteristics

This rabbit is about the size of the eastern cottontail, with relatively short legs and small, slender, orange-buff or reddish-buff feet and a rather dark buffy-brown to reddish-brown dorsum. It has a small tail, which is dingy gray or brown.. The underside is reddish brown and the nape is dark cinnamon rufous. The back, rump, upper tail, and hind legs vary from chestnut brown to a dark rusty red. The toenails of the hind feet are unusually long and conspicuous and the feet appear small and slender since they lack fur. They have a total length of about 448 mm, and a weight of 0 .9 to 1.6 kg. This species breeds year round with an average of 5.7 litters per year of 3-5 young per litter being born. This species is primarily nocturnal but feeding in tidal marshes prevents it from being completely nocturnal. It makes runways in marshes, and is also considered an excellent swimmer. Instead of hopping this species usually walks, particularly when moving across soft mud. Its tracks are readily distinguishable in mud by its exceptionally long toe-nails. They do not live in burrows but instead build a nest that is constructed from soft grasses and rabbit fur. Major causes of mortality in the species are human related activities, including fire and domestic dogs. Predators include foxes, weasels, bobcats, owls, hawks and man.

Distribution

This species is isolated to the southeastern corner of Virginia. Unlike other Sylvilagus, this species is confined solely to marshy habitats. Unlike other Lagomorphs, the single most important factor limiting the distribution of this species is the availability of water. This is the most aquatic of North American rabbits.

Foods

It is a herbivore and consumes a variety of vegetation including cattails, greenbriers, rushes, grasses, blackberries and woody plants. They consume 1/4 to 1/3 of their body weight in food each day.

More Information

For more information, please visit the Virginia Fish & Wildlife Information Service (direct link to species booklet).