Desert Cottontail

Desert Cottontail


Southwestern North Armerica, from northern Montana down to central Mexico, and as far west as the Pacific coast.


This species is found mainly in arid regions. It can also inhabit woodlands and grasslands, and it ranges in elevation from sea level up to about 6,000 feet.


Upper parts dark buffy brown, heavily lined with black; rump not much different from back; top of tail like back; nape bright rusty, almost orange rufous; front and outside of forelegs dark buff; hind legs brownish cinnamon; underside of neck brownish buff; rest of underparts and under-surface of tail clear white. Small spherical tail and well furred feet that provide grip when running.


Desert cottontails are not gregarious, but occasionally females have been seen feeding near one another without aggression. Home range size varies but is generally about 8 acres. The rabbits are most active in the early morning and in the evening, and they spend much of the remainder of the day under cover.


The breeding season is from December or January until the late summer. Gestation lasts only 28 days, and litters are made up of about three young. Desert cottontails produce only about 5 litters per year. A female builds a nest by digging a hole in the ground, then are lined with a layer of dried grasses, and the inside is filled entirely with rabbit fur. Their eyes open by day 10, and they leave the nest at the age of just under two weeks. They remain near the nest for another three weeks. Sexual maturity is achieved by the age of three months.

Interesting Facts:

When one is startled it may freeze or it may run for cover. They run in a zig-zag pattern, at about 15 miles per hour. This species has more athletic ability than the others in its genus, having the ability to swim and to climb trees and brush piles.

Did YOU Know?    
They will sometimes climb up a sloping tree to hide and rest.
Desert Cottontail
Native Utah Animal
Class: mammals
Order: Lagomorpha
Family: Leporidae
Genus: Sylvilagus
Species: audubonii
Length: Females are slightly larger than males. Head and body 13-16 in. (30-38 cm); ear 3-4 in. (76-102mm)
Height: N/A
Weight: 2 - 3 lb. (0.6 - 1.2 kg)
Average Lifespan: 1
Wild Diet: Grass, fruits, nuts, and vegetables when available
Predators: Birds of Prey, Foxes, Coyotes, etc.
USFWS Status: Not Listed
CITES Status: Not Listed
Where at the Zoo? Small Animal Building: Desert Zone

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