Lower Keys Marsh Rabbit

Sylvilagus palustris hefneri
marsh rabbit
The Lower Keys marsh rabbit is the smallest subspecies of marsh rabbit, reaching only 15 inches in length and weighing up to 3 pounds. The rabbits live in the grassy areas of both freshwater wetlands and salt marshes, where the tall grasses and sedges provide food, shelter and nesting sites. Individuals can often be seen in the early morning hours feeding on the edge of these habitats. The young become independent after only 2 weeks, and will disperse to their own home ranges after 8 months. Although they are primarily nocturnal (active at night) you may be lucky enough to see one in the vicinity of Blue Hole and the Nature Trails to the north. The subspecies was listed as federally endangered in 1990, its populations threatened as a result of habitat loss and degradation, as well as mortality from vehicles and free-roaming cats.

Facts About Lower Keys Marsh Rabbit

  • Females can produce up to 4 litters of between 1-3 offspring every year.  

  • They currently range from Big Pine Key to Boca Chica in the east, and are known to occupy several smaller islands in the refuge backcountry.  

  • The subspecies name, hefneri, is in recognition of generous research funding from Hugh Heffner, the creator of the Playboy Bunny.