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Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

The Eastern cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus) is a common and widely distributed species of cottontail rabbit found in eastern and central North America, including Missouri. Here are some key characteristics and information about the Eastern cottontail rabbit:

Physical Description:

  • Size: Eastern cottontails are relatively small rabbits, typically measuring 15 to 18 inches (38 to 46 centimeters) in length.
  • Fur: They have a short, soft coat of fur that is usually brown or gray, providing camouflage in their natural habitats. Their undersides are typically lighter in color.
  • Ears: Their ears are tall and upright, with a white or pale gray patch on the backside.


  • Eastern cottontails inhabit a variety of habitats, including fields, meadows, grasslands, forests, and suburban areas. They are highly adaptable and can thrive in both rural and urban environments.


  • Nocturnal: Eastern cottontails are primarily crepuscular, which means they are most active during dawn and dusk. They are often seen feeding during these times.
  • Solitary: They are typically solitary animals and are not known for forming large groups or colonies.
  • Reproduction: Cottontails are known for their rapid reproduction. They can have multiple litters of young (kittens) each year, with each litter consisting of several kits.
  • Diet: Their diet consists mainly of plant material, including grasses, herbs, and woody vegetation. They are also known to eat the bark of young trees in the winter.

Unique Feature:

  • Cottony Tail: Eastern cottontail rabbits are named for their distinctive fluffy white tail, which resembles a cotton ball. They often raise this tail when they are alarmed or fleeing from predators.


  • Eastern cottontail rabbits have several natural predators, including birds of prey, foxes, bobcats, coyotes, and domestic cats and dogs.


  • Eastern cottontails play a vital role in local ecosystems as both prey and herbivores. They help control plant growth through their browsing habits and serve as a food source for many predators.

Eastern cottontail rabbits are commonly observed in Missouri and are an important part of the state's wildlife diversity. They are often sought after by hunters during rabbit hunting seasons and are also appreciated by wildlife enthusiasts for their role in the natural world. 

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