Swamp Rabbit

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Swamp Rabbit
Conservation status: Lower risk (lc)
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Mammalia
Order:Lagomorpha
Family:Leporidae
Genus:Sylvilagus
Species:S. aquaticus
Binomial name
Sylvilagus aquaticus
(Bachman, 1837)

The Swamp Rabbit (Sylvilagus aquaticus) is a large "cottontail rabbit found in the swamps and wetlands of the Southern United States.

The appearance of S. aquaticus is similar to other cottontails, although it is among the largest members of the genus. They are generally brown, with the bottom of their stubby little tails colored white. Adult male and female specimens of this subspecies weigh between three and six pounds (1.5 - 3.75 kg). It is uncommon in rabbits for the female to weigh as much as the male.

The Swamp Rabbit eats reeds, plants, and grasses native to its marshy habitat.

Swamp Rabbits nest above ground in small dens made of dead plants and lined with its shed fur. When fleeing a predator, the Swamp Rabbit can run over 45 miles per hour, usually in an evasive zig-zag pattern.

S. aquaticus is a skilled swimmer, often crossing streams, ponds and rivers. The semi-aquatic cottontail will occasionally hide from natural enemies by sitting still in shallow water, exposing only its nose to the air to breathe.

In 1979 the Swamp Rabbit enjoyed a brief stint of notoriety when one of its number had a close encounter with Jimmy Carter. In April of that year, as President Carter was fishing on a small pond on his farm, a visibly agitated Swamp Rabbit approached his boat and tried to board. Carter, an expert in negotiations, used a paddle to persuade the creature to find sanctuary elsewhere. The incident was captured photographically, and the image is in the public domain courtesy of The Jimmy Carter Library (http://www.jimmycarterlibrary.org/). The story ran for a week, with no explanation of the unusual event, until a letter to the editor ran in the Minneapolis Star, written by a 7-year old self-proclaimed "expert", who confirmed that there was such a thing as the aquatic Swamp Rabbit.

Missing image
Jimmycarter_rabbit.jpg
Jimmy Carter's encounter with a Swamp Rabbit


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