Brush Rabbit

Brush rabbits are found along the Pacific coast of the United States, from the south side of the Columbia River Valley along the northern border of Oregon to the deserts of southern California. Their range does not penetrate far inland.

The small, brown brush rabbit has a tiny tail and rounded ears. The rabbits living in hot inland regions to the south of the range tend to have longer ears than those living on the cooler, humid northern coast. Presumably this is because sound does not travel as well in hot, dry air as in moist, cool air and so they need the larger ears to pick up sounds more effectively.

Brush rabbits are found living in brush habitats, which are particularly common in the deserts of California. The rabbits stay hidden among the low plants, and are rarely spotted in open country. They feed in large groups but do not have strong social interactions. Grasses comprise the bulk of the diet, but other plant foods may be eaten according to the season, including clover, leaves, forbs, berries and scrubs.

Like many rabbits and hares, brush rabbits are most active in the twilight of dawn and dusk. The rest of the time they lurk in the safety of the brush, digging simple burrows and tunnel networks, or forming runways through the thick vegetation.

This rabbit belongs to the same genus as cottontails. However, unlike many of its fluffy-tailed relatives, the brush rabbit's tail is small and dark on top. Compared to other cottontails, brush rabbits are also quite small. Females are usually slightly larger than males.

When a brush rabbit senses danger, it thumps the ground rapidly with its feet to warn other rabbits in the area. It is able to sit still for long periods of time to avoid detection by predators. If chased, it can reach speeds of 12-15 kmh (20 - 25 mph) as it flees, constantly changing direction to wrong foot the pursuing animal. Brush rabbits may even climb trees and scrubs to put themselves out of an attacker’s reach.

There are three or four litters a year, between January and June. Each litter contains 3 to 5 young, born after a gestation of about 27 days in a shallow hollow in the ground, which is lined with grass and fur.

Distribution: Western United States, from Oregon to southern California.

Habitat: Brushy cover.

Food: Grass and berries.

Size: 28 - 37 cm (11 - 14.5 in); 0.7 kg (1.5 lb).

Maturity: 6 months.

Breeding: 3 litters of 2 - 4 young produced from late winter to late summer; gestation is about 27 days. The young are born blind, but with a covering of fine fur.

Life span: 5 years.

Status: Endangered.