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Appalachian Cottontail (Hunted)

Appalachian Cottontail (Hunted)
Sylvilagus obscurus

These rabbits occur in the forests of eastern and middle Tennessee mountains. Appalachian Cottontails are more forest dwelling than Eastern Cottontails.

A medium-sized mammal with soft fur, large hind legs, long ears, and a fluffy white tail. Grayish brown to reddish upperparts contrast with generally whitish fur underneath. The tail is brown, but white underneath; when the rabbit runs, it lifts the tail to show this white, which is where it gets the common name.
Length: 15.2 - 17.0 inches
Tail: 1.5 - 3.0 inches
Ears: 2.3 inches
Weight: 1.8 - 2.4 pounds

Similar Species:
Eastern Cottontail has more of an orangish nape and the iris is a lighter brown, but they are virtually impossible to tell apart in the field. Habitat and geographic location are the best way to identify an Appalachian Cottontail.

Prefers more dense, forested environments than the Eastern Cottontail; also generally occurs in higher elevations. Vegetation in these areas includes rhododendron, mountain laurel, greenbrier, and cane.

Eats more forbs than grasses. Like the Eastern Cottontail, they eat a variety of woody plants during winter months. Fruits, buds, mushrooms, and seeds are also staples when available.

Breeding information:
Breeding usually occurs in late winter, and lasts through September. Females can have up to 7 litters a year, but usually average 3-4. With pregnancy lasting from 26-28 days, this means does are often nursing and pregnant by late May. Litters average 4-8 young. Since sexual maturity occurs in 2 to 3 months, approximately 25% of young are born to juveniles.

Status in Tennessee:
Appalachian Cottontails are not listed for protection, but they are uncommon across most of their range.

Fun Facts:

  • Swamp Rabbits, like all cottontails, eat their own soft droppings during the daytime to absorb any unused nutrients.

Best places to see in Tennessee: Mountainous forests in the eastern part of the state.

For more information:

South Carolina DNR web site

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries web site

Schwartz, C.W. and E.R. Schwartz. 2001. The Wild Mammals of Missouri, 2nd Edition. University of Missouri Press and Missouri Department of Conservation, Columbia, MO.