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Rabbits have long ears and long hindlegs for jumping.  They have two pairs of upper incisors, the first enlarged and chisel-like, the second small and directly behind the first, lacking cutting edges.  As in some other animals, the incisors continue to grow throughout life, but are constantly worn down by use.  Rabbits are herbivores that make the most out of their food by eating it twice (reingestion).  Vulnerable to predators, they evolved a protective mechanism of quickly filling the stomach, then hurrying to a hiding place, where they defecate pellets of soft, green undigested material, which they then eat and digest normally to obtain maximum nutrition.

Rabbits and Hares - Family Leporidae

Marsh Rabbit Sylvilagus palustris. Poorly known. Restricted to southernmost counties. Primarily occurs in and around marshes and swamps. Sexually active year-round, gestation period 30-37 days, several litters averaging three to five young born annually. Feeds on variety of lowland plants, including cattails, rushes, and cane, and also consumes twigs and leaves of trees, shrubs, and woody vines. HIGH CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Swamp Rabbit Sylvilagus aquaticus. Poorly known. Distributed statewide, except for southern tier of counties along Florida Panhandle. Found in floodplain forests, wooded bottomlands, briar and honeysuckle patches, and canebrakes. Produces up to eight litters averaging three to six young annually. Diet includes a variety of plant material, such as grasses, sedges, shrubs, twigs, and bark. Low Conservation Concern.

Eastern Cottontail Sylvilagus floridanus. Common and found statewide. Primarily occurs in deciduous forests and forest edges, but also in grasslands, along fencerows, and in urban areas. Produces up to seven litters averaging three to five young annually; gestation about 30 days. Forbs and grasses comprise most of diet in summer, but consumption of twigs and tree bark increases in winter. Lowest Conservation Concern.

Appalachian Cottontail Sylvilagus obscurus. Poorly known. Records only from northern third of Alabama. Inhabits dense woodlands and mountainous areas. Gestation 28 days; average litter size is five with two to three young produced annually. Diet mostly grass and clover; other foods include herbaceous plants and shrubs, twigs, buds, seeds, and fruit.  HIGH CONSERVATION CONCERN.

References Cited:

Mirarchi. Ralph E., ed. 2004. Alabama Wildlife, Volume One.  A Checklist of Vertebrates and Selected Invertebrates: Aquatic Mollusks, Fishes, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds and Mammals.  The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, AL. 209 pp.

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