Thursday, June 07, 2007

Marsh Rabbit

We all know that a marsh is a flooded grassland, while a swamp, like the one at the Audubon Center at the Francis Beidler Forest, is a flooded forest. Someone needs to tell that to the Marsh Rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris) that was seen lounging in the oppressive heat outside our office window. The animal's genus name is Latin and Greek for "forest hare," although its species name is Latin for "marshy".

Eastern Cottontails are also in the area. The Marsh Rabbit can be distinguished from its cottontail cousin by its noticeably rounder ears. The tail is also less cotton-like and visible. Although the life expectancy for the Marsh Rabbit is only two years (all those owls, alligators, foxes, bobcats, coyotes, hawks, and young-eating snakes), females are polygamous and can have 5 to 6 litters of 4 bunnies each per year beginning after their first birthday! The rabbits are nocturnal and spend the day like our model laying low in the brush, possibly in a shallow depression. If attacked, they can escape into the nearby water and are reported to be excellent swimmers.

After a few minutes of work outside in the 90F heat and high humidity, we agreed that the Marsh Rabbit had the right idea!

No comments: