Sylvilagus floridanus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Lagomorpha Leporidae

Scientific Name: Sylvilagus floridanus (J.A. Allen, 1890)
Common Name(s):
English Eastern Cottontail
Spanish Conejo Castellano
Taxonomic Notes: A systematic revision is necessary. According to Hall (1981) there are 24 recognized subspecies: Sylvilagus floridanus alacer, S. f. ammophilus, S. f. aztecus, S. f. chapmani, S. f. chiapensis, S. f. cognatus, S. f. connectens, S. f. costaricensis, S. f. floridanus, S. f. hesperius, S. f. hitchensi, S. f. holzneri, S. f. hondurensis, S. f. llanensis, S. f. mallurus, S. f. mearnsii, S. f. orizabae, S. f. paulsoni, S. f. restrictus, S. f. robustus, S. f. russatus, S. f. similis, S. f. subcinctus, and S. f. yucatanicus.

Chapman et al. (1980) also includes S. f. avius, S. f. continentis, S. f. cumanicus, S. f. margaritae, S. f. nelsoni, S. f. nigronuchalis, S. f. orinoci, S. f. purgatus, S. f. superciliaris, and S. f. valenciae.

The subspecies S. f. cognatus and S. f. robustus have been designated as species since the publication of Hall (1981).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Mexican Association for Conservation and Study of Lagomorphs (AMCELA), Romero Malpica, F.J. & Rangel Cordero, H.
Reviewer(s): Smith, A.T. & Boyer, A.F. (Lagomorph Red List Authority)
Sylvilagus floridanus is the most widely distributed species of Sylvilagus and is abundant throughout its range (Chapman et al. 1980). This species has been introduced in regions of North America and Europe, and is expanding its range by displacing other Leporids (Chapman and Ceballos 1990).
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Sylvilagus floridanus is widely distributed throughout the USA (eastern USA east of the Rocky Mountains, portions of southwest and northwest), Central America (central and eastern Mexico, southwestern Guatemala, southern Honduras, El Salvador, central Nicaragua, northwestern Costa Rica), and occurs in southern Canada (Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec) and the northern part of South America (Colombia and Venezuela) (Chapman et al. 1980).

S. floridanus can survive in diverse habitats, allowing the range to spread quickly (Chapman and Ceballos 1990).
Countries occurrence:
Canada (Manitoba, Ontario, Québec, Saskatchewan); Colombia; Costa Rica; El Salvador; Guatemala; Honduras; Mexico (Aguascalientes, Campeche, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Jalisco, México Distrito Federal, México State, Michoacán, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Puebla, Querétaro, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Yucatán, Zacatecas); Nicaragua; United States (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming); Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Sylvilagus floridanus is abundant and widespread, and is a highly effective colonizer. New populations of S. floridanus have been successfully introduced outside its range, and in some cases, S. floridanus has been known to displace native Leporids, including S. transitionalis (Chapman and Ceballos 1990). Peak densities have been recorded at eight to ten individuals per ha (Chapman and Ceballos 1990).

In Virginia, the population has declined over the past fifty years or so. This decline may be due to the loss of early successional habitat that is being turned into farmland and is exacerbated by an increase in the cottontail's predators. In most years, 80% or more of the adult cottontails are killed. However, in areas where there is good habitat there are still abundant populations (Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries).
Current Population Trend:Increasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The historical habitat of Sylvilagus floridanus was diverse, including deserts, swamps, glades, prairies, rain forests, boreal forests, hardwood forests, and woodlands (Chapman et al. 1980). In developed areas, S. floridanus survives well in farmland, pasture, and hedgerows (Chapman and Ceballos 1990).

The diet of S. floridanus is variable, depending on the type of habitat and the season, including woody plants in the dormant season and herbaceous plants in the growing season (Chapman et al. 1980). Breeding season varies depending on elevation and latitude, with breeding activity beginning later at higher elevations and northern latitudes (Chapman et al. 1980). Average gestation time is 28 days and size at birth ranges from 3.06-5.06 cm (Lorenzo and Cervantes 2005). Litter sizes are 3-5 with 3-4 litters per year (Lorenzo and Cervantes 2005). Total length ranges from 33.5-48.5 cm (Lorenzo and Cervantes 2005).

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Hunting for food and sport hunting.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Although abundant, subpopulations of Sylvilagus floridanus are at risk from hunting pressure (sport and local subsistence) throughout its range, human perturbation, and predation from invasive alien species. In some locations it is threatened by livestock competition and habitat fragmentation.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Sylvilagus floridanus is the most important regulated game animal in the USA. While S. floridanus does not appear to be declining, it has spread and has been introduced widely outside its original range, where it sometimes presents a threat to sympatric species, such as S. transitionalis in north-eastern USA (Chapman and Ceballos 1990).

Research is needed regarding taxonomy, distribution, population size, and to determine how S. floridanus affects other species.

Citation: Mexican Association for Conservation and Study of Lagomorphs (AMCELA), Romero Malpica, F.J. & Rangel Cordero, H. 2008. Sylvilagus floridanus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T41299A10418836. . Downloaded on 24 September 2018.
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