Cottontail rabbits are among the 17 lagomorph species in the genus Sylvilagus, found in the Americas. In appearance, most cottontail rabbits closely resemble the wild European rabbit.
- Scientific name: Sylvilagus
- Family: Leporidae
- Higher classification: Leporids
- Order: Lagomorpha
- Rank: Genus
Did you know: Humans may contract the bacterial disease tularemia from handling the dead body of an infected cottontail. umich.edu
Cottontail rabbits eat a great variety of plant materials. In the summer green plants are favored. About half of the food consumed are grasses (including bluegrass and wild rye) but wild strawberries, clover, plantain, garden vegetables and a wide array of other plants are also readily eaten as they become seasonally available. Feeding patterns vary with season, but typically peak in the two to three hours after dawn and the hour after sunset.
Many types of predators utilize cottontail rabbits as a food source. Foxes, hawks and owls are the most significant “natural” predators, while feral dogs and human hunters are the most significant “human-generated” predatory forces. Continuous predation pressure is essential to keep the populations of cottontails from growing too large for an ecosystem’s resources.