E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Sylvilagus nuttallii (Bachman, 1837)
Mountain Cottontail; Nuttall's Cottontail
Family: Leporidae

© David Nagorsen  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #8111)

Distribution of Sylvilagus nuttallii in British Columbia.
Source: Map courtesy of David Nagorsen


Nuttall's Cottontail "is confined to the inter mountain area of North America. It ranges from just above the Canadian border (Southern Alberta, Saskatchewan and south-central BC) south to Arizona and New Mexico, and from the foothills of the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains and west to the eastern slopes of the Cascade-Sierra Nevada Range. " (Wikipedia 2011). In British Columbia, this species was first reported in 1939 and is known from about 40 distinct sites (COSEWIC 2006). It is restricted in its range in BC to the southern Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys (Nagorsen 2005).

Nuttall's Cottontail is a solitary diurnal species. It is a relatively recent arrival in BC and is a species that has expanded its range northward. It is the smallest species of rabbit found in British Columbia. It is found in a variety of habitats. In the northern part of its range, it primarily occupies sagebrush habitat, while in the south it is often found in forested areas (IUCN 2011). COSEWIC (2006) provides the following habitat description: "Nuttall’s Cottontail is associated with shrub-steppe habitats dominated by Antelope-Bush, Big Sagebrush, Rabbit-Brush, and Western Juniper. The most important habitat attributes are the presence of sagebrush, with a cover of 30% or more, and rocky outcrops". In California, it is found at elevations ranging from 1,372 m to at least 3,200 m (IUCN 2011).

This small rabbit species has a total length of 319 mm (263-363) (COSEWIC 2006). It is a pale brown species with grey on the sides and rump, white underbelly, pale brown nape, black-tipped ears and white tail that is white on the dorsal surface and grey underneath (COSEWIC 2006, Nagorsen 2005, (IUCN 2011)). It closely resembles the introduced Eastern Cottontail, however, Nuttall's Cottontail is a smaller species, and the two do not overlap in range in BC.

Nuttal's Cottontail feeds on a variety of grass species and other plants, including sagebrushes.

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeS3BlueSC (Nov 2016)
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Additional Photo Sources

Species References

COSEWIC. 2006. COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Nuttall’s Cottontail nuttallii subspecies Sylvilagus nuttallii nuttallii in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa.

Nagorsen, David W. 2005. Rodents and Lagomorphs of British Columbia. Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria.

General References

Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2019. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 2020-03-31 4:14:55 AM]
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