|Swamp rabbit range|
Range and habitat
The swamp rabbit is found in much of the south-central United States and along the Gulf coast. It is most abundant in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, but also inhabits South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, and Georgia.
Swamp rabbits mainly live close to lowland water, often in cypress swamps, marshland, floodplain, and river tributaries. Swamp rabbits spend much of their time in depressions which they dig in tall grass or leaves, providing cover while the wait until the nighttime to forage.
S. aquaticus is the largest of the cottontail species, although its ears are smaller than other cottontails. Males are slightly larger than females. The head and back are typically dark or rusty brown or black, while the throat, ventral surface, and tail are white, and there is a cinnamon-colored ring around the eye.
S. aquaticus males vary in weight from 1,816 grams (4.004 lb) to 2,554 grams (5.631 lb), with an average of 2,235 grams (4.927 lb); females vary from 1,646 grams (3.629 lb) to 2,668 grams (5.882 lb), averaging 2,161 grams (4.764 lb). S. aquaticus ranges in length from 452 millimetres (17.8 in) to 552 millimetres (21.7 in), with an average length of 501 millimetres (19.7 in).
Known predators of S. aquaticus are domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris), American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis), and humans (Homo sapiens). The species is hunted for fur, meat, and sport, and is the second-most commonly hunted rabbit in the United States. Swamp rabbits have several adaptations to avoid predators: cryptic coloration, "freezing," and rapid, irregular jumping patterns.
Swamp rabbits are herbivorous; they eat a variety of foraged plants, including grasses, sedges, shrubs, tree bark and seedlings, and twigs. A study has found that the preferred foods of S. aquaticus are savannah panicgrass (Phanopyrum gymnocarpon), false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica), dewberry (Rubus sieboldii) and greenbrier (Smilax bona-nox).
In 1979, the swamp rabbit species enjoyed a brief stint of notoriety when one swamp rabbit had a close encounter with Jimmy Carter. In April of that year, as President Carter was fishing on a small pond on his farm, a visibly agitated swamp rabbit approached his boat and tried to board. Carter used a paddle to splash water at the rabbit to dissuade it from swimming towards the boat. The press dubbed this the "Killer Rabbit", in honor of the violent rabbit in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
- Hoffman, R. S.; Smith, A. T. (2005). "Order Lagomorpha". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 207–8. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Smith, A.T. & Boyer, A.F. (2008). "Sylvilagus aquaticus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
- "Swamp Hare". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
- Sylvilagus aquaticus (swamp rabbit), Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.
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