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.

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Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) is an emerging wildlife disease caused by rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus type 2 (RHDV2). The disease is highly infectious and has a high mortality rate. RHDV2 affects lagomorphs, members of the Order Lagomorpha, which includes domestic and wild rabbits, pikas, and hares. Susceptible native Tennessee wildlife species include the Eastern Cottontail, Appalachian Cottontail, and Swamp Rabbit. Currently, RHDV2 has not been documented to affect humans or any other animal species.  Read More...