U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Sacramento Fish & Wildlife OfficeServing the people, conserving the fish, wildlife, and plants of California

A Unit Of The Pacific Southwest Region

Kids' Species Information

Riparian Brush Rabbit

Riparian Brush Rabbit


riparian brush rabbit

Endangered. This means the species is in danger of dying out. We are working hard to prevent this. We are raising bunnies in a place where they are safe from predators.

In December 2005, we released more than two dozen rabbits into the wild. The releases were on a ranch near the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge.


The riparian brush rabbit is a medium to small cottontail. Its back is dark brown to gray. Its belly is white.

Adults are about 30 to 37.5 centimeters long. (11 to 14 inches) They weigh 500 to 800 grams. (1.1 to 1.8 pounds)

Have you seen desert cottontails? (They don't always live in the desert.) Brush rabbits have smaller tails. Desert cottontails' ears have black tips. Brush rabbits' ears don't. See side by side pictures by Laurissa Hamilton.


Grasses, clover, other plants, shoots and leaves. Green clover is their favorite food.


Riparian brush rabbits live by rivers. They live in thickets of willows, wild rose bushes, blackberry, coyote bushes and wild grape vines.


Riparian brush rabbits breed from around January to May. Litters average 3 or 4 babies. Each female has three or four litters per year.


Hawks and owls. Dogs, foxes and coyotes. House cats and bobcats. Weasels, raccoons and snakes. No wonder bunnies stay in the bushes as much as they can.


Very few bunnies live in the wild. Most live at Caswell Memorial State Park. We are now putting some back in places the used to live. See the news releases in More Reading below.


About 90% of the places riparian brush rabbits live have been destroyed. Some of the things that did this are the growth of cities and farms, flood control and dams.

Floods are a danger. This is true even though the rabbits can climb trees!


Riparian brush rabbit and riparian woodrat (PDF 1MB) from the California Dept. of Pesticide Regulation. This publication is designed to help farmers avoid brush rabbits and woodrats. But it has lots of pictures and information.

Visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Homework Help page to learn more about endangered species.

Photo credits: Picture at top of page by Heather Bell, USFWS. Linked photos by Laurissa Hamilton, a biologist with the Endangered Species Recovery Program.

Words to Learn

Riparian means something on, related to or near a river or stream.

Biologists call brush rabbits Sylvilagus bachmani. Scientific names are in Latin or Greek.

The riparian brush rabbit is a subspecies of the brush rabbit species. Biologists add riparius to the species name to say that this is the riparian subspecies.

So the scientific name of the riparian brush rabbit is Sylvilagus bachmani riparius.

Brush rabbits are in the Leporidae family. This family includes about 50 species of rabbits and hares.

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Last updated: November 29, 2017