Sylvilagus nuttallii
(Mountain Cottontail)

Order: Lagomorpha
Order Description: Lagomorphs
Family: Leporidae
Family Description:Rabbits and Hares

This cottontail is grayish brown with a slight yellowish appearance above and whitish below.  A diagnostic characteristic is a narrow, black line along the margin of the ear.  They have a fairly large tail that is dark above and white underneath.  Their total length is 13.5 to 16.6 inches (338-415 mm), tail length is 1.2 to 2.2 inches (30-54 mm), and they weigh 1.4 to 1.9 pounds (630-870 grams).

From eastern slopes of Cascade-Sierra Nevada ranges, east to western North Dakota and Black Hills, and from southern Canada south to Arizona and New Mexico.

Prefers brushy, rocky areas in dense sagebrush, and streamside thickets and forest edges. May sometimes climb into junipers. In southeastern Idaho, prefers areas with relatively greater amounts of forbs Click word for definition. They are prevalent in rock hills and canyons and may even be found in conifer forests.

Feeds on grasses and other herbaceous and woody vegetation, including sagebrush and juniper. In Idaho, diet includes sagebrush, rabbitbrush, grasses, brush, bark, shoots, buds, and crops.

May be active any time of day or night, but is primarily crepuscular. Active throughout year. Uses burrows and forms. Usually feeds in or near cover. The mountain cottontail is more solitary than other cottontails. In some areas, gopher snakes and western rattlesnakes are important predators on juveniles. In Oregon study, population density Click word for definitionranged from 19-254/100 ha; in southern British Columbia study, density in sagebrush was 23-43/100 ha. In Idaho, species is known to carry tularemia.

Breeds in late winter, spring, and summer. Gestation Click word for definitionlasts 28-30 days. Females may produce 4-5 litters of 4-5 young/yr. Females construct small, fur-lined nests, and their young are capable of moving about independently in 4 to 5 weeks.

Status: Game species
Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5

Important State References:
Johnson, M.K. and R.M. Hansen. 1979. Foods of cottontails and woodrats in south-central Idaho. J. Mammal. 60:213-215.

Information written by Donald Streubel,© 2000
Map image provided by
Stephen Burton,© 2000
Design by Ean Harker©1999, 2000.