True to its name, the marsh rabbit is found in the marshes and swamps of the Eastern and Southern United States. Our marsh rabbits — not to be confused with the larger swamp rabbits of Alabama through Texas — are delicate little things. Those on the Florida peninsula, and in South Florida in particular, weigh only 2-3 pounds, reaching a total length of 17 inches. “Mainland” (non-Florida) marsh rabbits run noticeably larger. Florida’s marsh rabbits have shorter ears, and smaller legs than the swamp rabbits and cottontails — and instead of a bushy, cottonball-tail, the tail forms a tuft. They’re also darker in coloration than eastern cottontails.
What’s so interesting about our marsh rabbits, as their name signifies, is their proclivity to water — swimming often and well, sometimes for long distances. It’s common to see them in the shallow waters of our wetlands scrounging for food. Another interesting feature of marsh rabbits is that they walk on all fours, like a cat — ensuring easy and swift negotiation of the dense marshes and the surrounding vegetation. Their preferred habitats are the brackish and freshwater marshes, mangrove swamps, and sandy islands. These rabbits must have access to water, remaining on high ground and in the thick vegetation for protection from predators including alligators, snakes, bobcats, foxes, coyotes, and birds of prey. They’re most active at dusk and at night, eating the abundant wetland and aquatic plants.
They’re truly adorable little things; even the strong-like-bull human male can’t resist yelping “bunnies!” when we’re walking the wetlands, or hiking the swamps, and one creeps into view. And the baby marsh rabbits? Cuteness factor through the roof. I like to call them swamp bunnies, much to the chagrin of uptight naturalists who may be listening in on my insanity. I just snapped a few babies, as it’s of course baby season…. So the adorableness will soon be shared.