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Pest Information

Cottontail rabbits

Cottontail rabbits

  • Latin Name: Sylvilagus spp.
  • Common Name: Cottontail rabbits
  • Other Names: Eastern cottontail, Desert Cottontail, Brush rabbit

Pest Details

Origin:

These are native animals in North America.

Biology:

At least 16 different species in the genus occur in North, Central, and South Americas, with a number native to the U.S. and southern Canada. The Eastern Cottontail may be the most common in the east and the Desert Cottontail and Brush Rabbit two common species in the west. In warm regions they breed throughout the spring and summer with at least 5 broods of 4 young per brood. The young (“bunnies”) are independent and on their own at about 3 weeks after birth. They have the ability to live up to 10 years, but due to heavy predation the normal life expectancy of these rabbits in the wild is only 4 to 6 months, and only half of the bunnies even survive to leave the nest. Their preferred habitat is a mix of brush that provides cover and grassy areas for foraging, and agricultural crops are often invaded and damaged. They feed almost entirely on plant materials and even acquire most of their water needs from the plants they eat.

Identification:

These rabbits are more compact than the jackrabbits and have noticeably shorter ears, which are no longer than the length of the head. The overall body length is from 12 to 16 inches. The fur is brownish and liberally speckled with dark spots. On the Eastern Cottontail there usually is a reddish-brown patch on the collar area and sometimes a white spot on the head. The fur of the western Desert Cottontail is an overall gray with darker streaking.

Characteristicts Important to Control:

Due to their potential to damage crops, turf, and ornamental plantings there may be a need to manage their presence. Most state wildlife agencies list them as non-game animals that may be killed, but some states may label them as fur-bearing mammals and require specific permits to harm them. No toxins are labeled for rabbit control throughout the U.S., but some states may have specific allowances for them. Repellents can be applied to valuable plants or around small areas to be protected, but they offer very short term protection or repellency. Trapping generally is unsuccessful and even if trapped the animals could not be relocated legally in most states. The use of fencing, including electric fencing, is often the most effective long term solution. Permanent fences need to be placed at least 6 inches into the ground and extend at least 3 feet high.

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