Did you know that there is one species of wild rabbit that is able to swim? It is the marsh rabbit that lives in the Florida Keys. Like most rabbits, it is crepuscular: it is active at dawn and dusk. But unlike most rabbits, as well as the fact that it is an excellent swimmer, the time when it is most active is at night, between 8:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. Here are further details, as reported by Gail Compton at StAugustine.com:
Sylvilagus palustris (marsh rabbit) is found in parts of the southeastern United States. Its range includes southeast Virginia, southern Georgia, eastern Alabama, the Florida peninsula, and the islands along the coast of Florida.
Early mornings, driving south on A1A, if you look carefully at the roadsides you’ll see marsh rabbits feeding. They tend to stick close to undergrowth and taller grasses in case they have to dive for cover from a host of predators like hawks, bobcats, domestic dogs and cats, owls, fox and snakes. Like most prey animals, these rabbits are always on the alert. If you visit the dunes where small shrubs, clumping grasses, and vines provide hiding places, there’s probably a rabbit under every other mound of green. Anastasia State Recreational Park has dune areas, salt marshes, and freshwater areas where these rabbits find pennywort, duck potato, greenbrier, blackberries, rhizomes, bulbs and varieties of grasses to feed on.
One of the most surprising behaviors is that marsh rabbits swim. Especially if chased by a predator, the marsh rabbit will head for water, dive in, and, keeping its nose above water, head for the cover of marsh grasses. While marsh rabbits usually hide during the day, look for tunnels in thickets and grasses used by marsh rabbits and other nocturnal animals.
Although marsh rabbits are solitary animals, where there are places to nest, hide, feed you will see more than one or two and they seem to be able to share resources.
They also have the habit of sharing toilet areas and you’ll find deposits of their droppings in the form of small hard pellets. Females have two to four litters a year and tend to stay in a favorite territory. The males take no part in the raising of young and explore larger territories.
The complete article is available by clicking this link.
The scientific name Sylvilagus palustris comes from silva, the Latin word for forest, lagos, meaning hare, and palustris, meaning marsh. There is a subspecies, Sylvilagus palustris hefneri, commonly known as the Lower Keys Marsh Rabbit that is on the endangered list. Amusingly, the hefneri part of its name refers to the king of the Playboy bunnies, Hugh Hefner.
Marsh rabbit photo by Tom Friedel