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Appalachian Cottontail

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

Description:  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 SpeciesEastern 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.

Habitat:  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.

Diet:  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 TennesseeAppalachian 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.