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marsh rabbit

Fact File

Scientific Name: Sylvilagus palustris palustris

Classification: Mammalia, Order Lagomorpha, Family Leporidae

Identifying Characteristics

This rabbit is about the size of the eastern cottontail, with relatively short legs and small, slender, orange-buff or reddish-buff feet and a rather dark buffy-brown to reddish-brown dorsum. It has a small tail, which is dingy gray or brown.. The underside is reddish brown and the nape is dark cinnamon rufous. The back, rump, upper tail, and hind legs vary from chestnut brown to a dark rusty red. The toenails of the hind feet are unusually long and conspicuous and the feet appear small and slender since they lack fur. They have a total length of about 448 mm, and a weight of 0 .9 to 1.6 kg. This species breeds year round with an average of 5.7 litters per year of 3-5 young per litter being born. This species is primarily nocturnal but feeding in tidal marshes prevents it from being completely nocturnal. It makes runways in marshes, and is also considered an excellent swimmer. Instead of hopping this species usually walks, particularly when moving across soft mud. Its tracks are readily distinguishable in mud by its exceptionally long toe-nails. They do not live in burrows but instead build a nest that is constructed from soft grasses and rabbit fur. Major causes of mortality in the species are human related activities, including fire and domestic dogs. Predators include foxes, weasels, bobcats, owls, hawks and man.


This species is isolated to the southeastern corner of Virginia. Unlike other Sylvilagus, this species is confined solely to marshy habitats. Unlike other Lagomorphs, the single most important factor limiting the distribution of this species is the availability of water. This is the most aquatic of North American rabbits.

Last updated: August 18, 2023

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources Species Profile Database serves as a repository of information for Virginia’s fish and wildlife species. The database is managed and curated by the Wildlife Information and Environmental Services (WIES) program. Species profile data, distribution information, and photography is generated by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, State and Federal agencies, Collection Permittees, and other trusted partners. This product is not suitable for legal, engineering, or surveying use. The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources does not accept responsibility for any missing data, inaccuracies, or other errors which may exist. In accordance with the terms of service for this product, you agree to this disclaimer.