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Sylvilagus aquaticus

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA LAGOMORPHA LEPORIDAE

Scientific Name: Sylvilagus aquaticus
Species Authority: (Bachman, 1837)
Common Name(s):
English Swamp Rabbit
Taxonomic Notes: There are two recognized subspecies: Sylvilagus aquaticus aquaticus and S. a. littoralis (Hall 1981).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Smith, A.T. & Boyer, A.F.
Reviewer(s): Johnston, C.H. and Smith, A.T. (Lagomorph Red List Authority)
Justification:
Sylvilagus aquaticus is a species with a wide distribution, and though the area of suitable habitat is declining in most areas due to human development of land, there are populations reported to be persisting in southeast Missouri (Scheibe and Henson 2003), in an area where habitat has been greatly reduced. It occurs in many protected areas (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2006)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Sylvilagus aquaticus occurs in the southeastern United States in eastern Texas and Oklahoma, southeastern Kansas, most of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, the western tip of the Florida panhandle, western Georgia, western Tennessee, far western Kentucky, the northwestern tip of South Carolina, far southern Illinois, and the south sections of Missouri (Chapman and Ceballos 1990).

S. a. littoralis occurs only in the southern gulf coastal section of the range. S. a. aquaticus occurs in the northern section of the range, more common in dense forest (Chapman and Feldhamer 1981, Chapman and Ceballos 1990).
Countries:
Native:
United States (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas)
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Sylvilagus aquaticus is an important game species in much of its range and is known to be locally abundant in some areas and appears to be declining in others (Chapman and Ceballos 1990; Barbour et al. 2001; Scheibe and Henson 2003). Few studies have been conducted to determine the abundance or decline of S. aquaticus.

In Missouri, the overall area of suitable habitat is decreasing, but there are still several viable populations within the known range, and there is some indication that new populations have recently been naturally established, possibly due to dispersal facilitated by flooding (Scheibe and Henson 2003).

In Illinois, a 1995-1997 study showed a stable distribution of S. aquaticus in this range over the previous ten years (Barbour et al. 2001).

In Louisiana, there are large tracts of suitable habitat and it is an important game species (Chapman and Ceballos 1990).

In South Carolina, Rabbit Hunter Survey 2006-2007 shows that there is a decline in rabbits jumped/hour, 1.39 (2006) to 1.26 (2007) (South Carolina Rabbit Hunter Survey, 2006-2007).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Sylvilagus aquaticus occurs in swampy, lowland, or river bottom areas, always near water (Chapman and Feldhamer 1981). Forested wetlands and lowland hardwood forests are also preferred (Scheibe and Henson 2003). The amphibious nature of S. aquaticus offers it some protection from predators and hunters (Whitaker and Hamilton 1998).

S. aquaticus prefers a diet of sedges and also feeds on grasses and forbs (Chapman and Ceballos 1990).

Females have litter sizes from one to six, and produce two to five litters per year (Chapman and Ceballos 1990). Gestation is 35-40 days (Whitaker and Hamilton 1998).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Sylvilagus aquaticus is a favourite game species, though its speed, ability to swim, and nature of its habitat offers some protection from hunters and predators (Whitaker and Hamilton 1998). Hunting is regulated by individual state wildlife agencies (Chapman and Ceballos 1990). While hunting is not a major threat to stable populations, S. aquaticus appears to have a sensitivity to harvest in the late season (winter) (Bond et al. 2004).

Habitat loss has been the greatest cause of decline of S. aquaticus. In Missouri in 1973, a decline of suitable habitat from 850,000 ha to 40,000 ha was recorded over the previous 103 years (Korte and Fredrickson 1977). The habitat was converted from forest to cropland.

Habitat fragmentation is an issue associated with human encroachment upon S. aquaticus habitat. Many S. aquaticus populations exist on small tracts of private property, impeding dispersal and creating difficulties for management (Scheibe and Henson 2003).

Flooding of wet forested areas has a negative impact on S. aquaticus populations, but floods in some areas induce dispersal (Scheibe and Henson 2003).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Hunting of Sylvilagus aquaticus is managed individually by state wildlife agencies (Chapman and Ceballos 1990). Because S. aquaticus occurs in many instances on small tracts of private land, management becomes problematic (Scheibe and Henson 2003). Increasing the area of continuous tracts of suitable habitat may be key to S. aquaticus conservation (Scheibe and Henson 2003).

S. aquaticus is currently found in three managed areas in Missouri: Mingo National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Duck Creek Conservation Area, and Donaldson Point Conservation Area (Scheibe and Henson 2003). It also occurs in White River NWR in Arkansas, Panther Swamp NWR, Mathews Brake NWR, Hillside NWR, and Morgan Brake NWR in Mississippi, Atchafalaya NWR in Louisiana, Deep Fork NWR in Oklahoma, and Chickasaw NWR in Tennessee (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2006).

Citation: Smith, A.T. & Boyer, A.F. 2008. Sylvilagus aquaticus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 28 August 2014.
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