Animals / Mammal Facts / Rabbits, Hares and Pika - Food for the World / Marsh Rabbit - Short-Eared Marsh Swimmer

Marsh Rabbit - Short-Eared Marsh Swimmer

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Although you might not imagine it, any rabbit can swim if it must. But there are some species that take to water almost as readily as ducks. The marsh rabbit that inhabits the Atlantic and Gulf coastal states from Virginia to Alabama is one such species and you will only find it living where there is water nearby. In warm weather, the rabbits may lay around happily for hours in a pond of water. The coat of this rabbit is black and reddish brown with white or grey-brown undersides. Its length is about 17 inches (43cm) and it is a member of the cottontail family although the tail can be more of a dingy grey than white. Another standout difference when compared with other rabbits is that they have rather short ears, shorter than those of other cottontail species. Another oddity for a rabbit is that they prefer to walk on all four legs rather than hop.



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The marsh rabbit conceals its nest amid the rank undergrowth of swamps and marshes, stepping along beaten paths on comparatively short legs. Sandy areas near fresh or brackish water can be its habitat. Reeds, tubers, and roots available in the marshes make up most of its diet. They can even eat some plants underwater.


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When alarmed, the marsh rabbit leaps for the water, where it can outswim even a large dog. Individuals have been observed swimming strong 700 yards (640 m) from shore. The rabbits also elude their enemies by floating motionless among water plants, ears tucked down, with just noses and faces above the water. They will maintain this position unless they think they have been spotted or else they are touched, with a stick for example, then they will swim off as quickly as possible. Their predators in the Southeastern marshes are animals of land (foxes and snakes), air (hawks and owls) and water (alligators).






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