eastern cottontail

(Sylvilagus floridanus)

Conservation Status
eastern cottontail
  IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern


N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed


Eastern cottontail is the smallest of Minnesota’s Leporidae, weighing 2 to 4 pounds at maturity.

Mearns’s eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) is rusty-brown in color.

Nebraska cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus similis) is gray.




Total length: 16 to 19

Tail: 1¼ to 2½






Similar Species


Snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), found in northern Minnesota, is slightly larger than the eastern cottontail. It is uniformly dark brown in the summer and turns white in the winter.

White-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus townsendii) is much larger, weighing 5¾ to 9½ pounds at maturity. It turns white in the winter.


Eastern cottontail is found in a wider variety of habitats than any other cottontail species. Any habitat that includes well-distributed, dense shrubs for escape cover interspersed with open, grassy areas is ideal for this species. These include farmlands, old fields, pastures, hedgerows, orchards, brushy clearings, open woods, wooded thickets, edges of woodlands, and suburban areas with adequate cover.








3 to 5 years


Life Cycle






In the spring, summer, and fall, the eastern cottontail feeds on a wide variety of plant matter, including grasses (about half of it’s diet), clover, wild strawberry, cultivated and wild flowers, and many types of cultivated crops.

During the winter months they feed on twigs, bark and buds of oak, dogwood, sumac, maple and birch. They may girdle fruit trees and ornamental shrubs.


Distribution Map



7, 15, 24, 29, 30.

Mearns’s eastern cottontail (S. f. mearnsi) is found throughout the state except for the northeast corner and the western portion of the northwestern counties.

Nebraska cottontail (S. f. similis) range extends into Minnesota only in the western portion of the northwestern counties.





  Class Mammalia (mammals)  
  Subclass Theria  
  Infraclass Eutheria (placental mammals)  
  Superorder Euarchontoglires (primates, rodents, and allies)  
  Order Lagomorpha (hares, pikas, and rabbits)  


Leporidae (hares and rabbits)  


Sylvilagus (cottontail rabbits)  

Subordinate Taxa


allied cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus simplicicanus)

Alta Mira cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus connectens)

Aves Island cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus avius)

black-naped rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus continentis)

Bonda cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus superciliaris)

Chiapas cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus chiapensis)

Cucuma cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus cumanicus)

Curaçao cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus nigronuchalis)

eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus llanensis)

eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus macrocorpus)

eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus mallurus)

Florida cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus floridanus)

hoary-rumped cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus caniclunis)

Holzner cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus holzneri)

Honduras cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus hondurensis)

Margarita cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus margaritae)

Mearns’s eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus mearnsi)

Micco cottontail Rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus ammophilus)

Michoacan cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus restrictus)

Michoacan cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus subcinctus)

Nebraska cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus similis)

Oklahoma cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus alacer)

Orinoco cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus orinoci)

Orizaba cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus orizabae)

Puebla cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus persultator)

russet cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus russatus)

Smiths Island cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus hitchensi)

Tehuantepec cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus aztecus)

Texas cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus chapmani)

Valencia Lake cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus valenciae)

Yucatan cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus yucatanicus)






Common Names


eastern cottontail








Visitor Photos

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Wayne Rasmussen

    eastern cottontail   eastern gray squirrel  

Bill Reynolds

    eastern cottontail      
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos

Mearns’s eastern cottontail

    eastern cottontail   eastern cottontail  

Mearns’s eastern cottontail with cottontail rabbit papilloma virus (CRPV)

    eastern cottontail      



  Sylvilagus floridanus (Eastern Cottontail)
Allen Chartier
  Sylvilagus floridanus (Eastern Cottontail)  
  Eastern Cottontail
Dan Dzurisin
  Eastern Cottontail  
  Eastern Cottontail Rabbit
Gerald (Wayne) Prout
  Eastern Cottontail Rabbit  



Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Eastern CottonTail Rabbit Makes Nest

Uploaded on Jul 2, 2009

This is an Eastern Cottontail rabbit ripping up my lawn to make a nest in the backyard! So cute and such a busy worker! She obviously doesn't work for the state because there would have been 6 other rabbits sitting around watching her and drinking iced coffee.

  Eastern Cottontail Rabbit (Leporidae: Sylvilagus floridanus)
Carl Barrentine

Published on Feb 18, 2013

An eastern cottontail rabbit forages for spilt seed beneath a bird feeder in the teeth of raging blizzard at Grand Forks, North Dakota (18 February 2013).




Visitor Sightings

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  Janet M Diehl

Location: Episcopal Homes of MN at University W. & Fairview

I live at Episcopal Homes of MN at University W. & Fairview.  We have some resident wild rabbits which I think are Eastern Cottontail.  In the warmer months I often see them eating the clover and grass on the lawns by our buildings at dusk. 

I see them only on the inside of the connected complex of buildings – not on the lawns on the street sides of our buildings.  Nor do I see them in the small city park next to Episcopal Homes.  All this makes me think they are confined or trapped by our continuous buildings.   The only real exit is on to University.

My question is:  How do they survive in the winter?  I see them out occasionally at dusk in the snow or where the snow is pushed aside or bare spots under shrubs & trees, but even that doesn’t seen like enough to sustain them through the winter.  I found a dead bunny last spring next to our building by some shrubs. 

Is there any thing I can do to support their life?  Food?  Plants? Hay?  Shelter?  etc.  Things to avoid?  I have read quit a bit on line, but my questions are not answered.  Some parts of your website I could not open.

  John Valo

I have three eastern cottontails that live in or near my yard. They have a tough time finding enough food in the winter. I buy Purina Rabbit Chow from Fluegel's in Rosemount. Pet food stores should carry it also. If you want to feed your rabbits, you might put a half cup of it some place where

  1. they can find it;
  2. it will not be disturbed or covered with snow; and
  3. it is easy for you to get at every day.

For me, that place is by a basement exit under an outdoor, second floor deck. I make three small piles, well-spaced, a third cup each, so the three rabbits can all eat at the same time without fighting over the food.

  Wayne Rasmussen

Location: Maplewood Heights Park

eastern gray squirrel

  Wayne Rasmussen

Location: Pipestone National Monument

eastern cottontail

  John Valo

Note the gray fur color. This is a Nebraska cottontail (S. f. similis).

  Bill Reynolds

Location: Pennington Co.

eastern cottontail

MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings




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