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Photo Credit: Weeks Bay Reserve Foundation
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Sylvilagus aquaticus
OTHER NAMES: Cane cutter
DESCRIPTION: The swamp rabbit (Sylvilagus aquaticus) is the largest of the rabbits that occur in the southeastern
DISTRIBUTION: Swamp rabbits are found in riparian zones, swamps and marshes in the southeastern
HABITAT: Swamp rabbits can adapt to different habitat types, but prefer woodlands, brush, grasslands, and cultivated lands near or adjacent to a water source. Cover is a major requirement for their survival. Small food patches or linear strips located near cover are effectively utilized by swamp rabbits. Brushy fence rows, honeysuckle thickets, blackberry patches and brush or slash piles are excellent sources of cover.
FEEDING HABITS: Swamp rabbits feed mainly at night or in low light conditions. They prefer aquatic plants and grasses and will feed in water 3 to 4 feet deep. Other preferred foods include: sedges, sprouts, leaves, fruits, buds and bark. They also eat legumes and waste grain such as corn and soybeans left in agricultural fields.
Predators, parasites and diseases are the major limiting factors of swamp rabbits. They are preyed upon by numerous species: foxes, bobcats, red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks, broad winged hawks, barred owls, great-horned owls, coyotes, alligators, snakes, dogs, feral house cats, skunks, crows and raccoons. Swamp rabbits readily take to water to flee predators. Swamp rabbits are infected by numerous parasites, the most prevalent being bot fly larvae commonly referred to as “wolves.” They also contract fibromas which are warty growths spread by ticks, mosquitos, and other biting insects. Tularemia – the major disease contracted by the swamp rabbit – can spread quickly and cause significant mortality. This disease is caused by a bacterium, Pasteurella tularaensis, which also infects wild birds and mammals.
Dickson, J. G. 2001. Wildlife of Southern Forests: Habitat and Management. Hancock House Publishers,
Yarrow, G. K., and D. T. Yarrow. 1999. Managing Wildlife. Sweetwater Press,
Author: Adam Pritchett, Wildlife Biologist,