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Montana Field Guides

Desert Cottontail - Sylvilagus audubonii

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Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S4

Agency Status
USFWS:
USFS:
BLM:
FWP Conservation Tier: 3


 

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General Description
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General Distribution
Montana Range



Western Hemisphere Range

 


Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations: 207

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density

Recency

 

(Records associated with a range of dates are excluded from time charts)



Migration
Non-migratory.

Habitat
Arid grasslands and sagebrush areas. In badlands and sagebrush coulees. Nests are pear-shaped excavations in the ground, cavity lined with vegetation and fur.

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
  • Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
    How Associations Were Made
    We associated the use and habitat quality (high, medium, or low) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
    1. Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2001, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
    2. Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species’ range and habitat requirements;
    3. Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point database associated with each ecological system;
    4. Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of “observations versus availability of habitat”.
    Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.  In general, species were associated as using an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.  However, species were not associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if point observations were associated with that system.  High, medium, and low habitat quality was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species in the literature.  The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignments of habitat quality.  If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact Bryce Maxell at bmaxell@mt.gov or (406) 444-3655.

    Suggested Uses and Limitations
    Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.  These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: http://mtnhp.org/requests/default.asp) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.  Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.  Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.  Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).  Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species’ known geographic range.

    Literature Cited
    • Adams, R.A.  2003.  Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation.  Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.  289 p.
    • Dobkin, D. S.  1992.  Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34.  Missoula, MT.
    • Foresman, K.R.  2001.  The wild mammals of Montana.  Special Publication No. 12.  Lawrence, KS: The American Society of Mammalogists.  278 p.
    • Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998.  Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates.  Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT.  1302 p.
    • Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young.  1999.  Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32.  72 p.
    • Maxell, B.A.  2000.  Management of Montana’s amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species.  Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1.  Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana.  161 p.
    • Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath.  2004.  Amphibians and reptiles of Montana.  Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.

Ecology
In Central and Eastern MT, sympatric with Mountain Cottontail which uses riparian areas. In southwest MT, S. audubonii is not present and S. idahoensis and S. nuttallii are sympatric on its typical habitat.

Reproductive Characteristics
Circi-annual breeding in warmer climates, probably breeds April to July in Montana. Average 2.6 to 3.6 young/litter. Five litters/year in AZ, probably less in MT. Sexual maturity as early as day 80.

References
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View WorldCat Record   View Online Publication
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    • Bergeron, D.J. and R.W. Seabloom. 1981. Habitat partitioning by eastern and desert cottontails in southwest North Dakota. Prairie Nat. 13:105-110.
    • Chapman, J. A. and G. R. Willner. 1978. Sylvilagus audubonii. Mamm. Species 106:1-4.
    • Flinders, J. T. and R. M. Hansen. 1973. Abundance and dispersion of Leoprids within a shortgrass ecosystem. J. Mammal. 54:287-29.
    • Foresman, K. R. 2001. The wild mammals of Montana. American Society of Mammologists, Special Publication Number 12. Lawrence, KS. 278 p.
    • Giddings, Brian., 1986, Ecology of the bobcat in a prairie rangeland-agricultural environment in eastern Montana.
    • Hoffmann, R. S. and D. L. Pattie. 1968. A guide to Montana mammals: identification, habitat, distribution, and abundance. University of Montana, Missoula. 133 p.
    • Hoffmann, R.S., P.L. Wright, and F.E. Newby. 1969. Distribution of some mammals in Montana. I. Mammals other than bats. Journal of Mammalogy 50(3): 579-604.
    • Humphris, Michael., 1990, Wildlife Monitoring Report. Spring Creek Coal Company 1990 Mining Annual Report. Appendix I. April 11, 1990.
    • Humphris, Michael., 1991, Wildlife Monitoring Report. Spring Creek Coal Company 1991 Mining Annual Report. Appendix I. April 11, 1991.
    • Humphris, Michael., 1993, Wildlife Monitoring Report. Spring Creek Coal Company 1993 Mining Annual Report. Appendix I. April 11, 1993.
    • Humphris, Michael., 1994, Wildlife Monitoring Report. Spring Creek Coal Company 1994 Mining Annual Report. Appendix I. April 1994.
    • Johnson, M. K. and R. M. Hansen. 1979. Foods of cottontails and woodrats in southcentral Idaho. J. Mammal. 60:213-215.
    • KUNDAELI, J.N. AND H.G. REYNOLDS. 1972. DESERT COTTONTAIL USE OF NATURAL AND MODIFIED PINYON-JUNIPER WOODLANDS. J. Range Manage. 25: 116-118.
    • Maxim Technologies, Inc., 2002, Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana: 2002 Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report; December 1, 2001 - November 30, 2002. Febr. 24, 2002.
    • Montana Prairie Dog Working Group. 2002. Conservation plan for black-tailed and white-tailed prairie dogs in Montana. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Helena MT. 51 p.
    • Peabody Coal Company, Flagstaff, AZ., 1991, Wildlife monitoring report: 1990 field season, Big Sky Mine. July 1991.
    • Reid, F. 2006. Peterson Field Guide to Mammals of North America, 4th Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston and New York, 608 pp.
    • Schladweiler, Philip, and John P. Weigand., 1983, Relationships of endrin and other chlorinated hydrocarbon compounds to wildlife in Montana, 1981-1982. September 1983.
    • Spring Creek Coal Company., 1992, Wildlife Monitoring Report. Spring Creek Coal Company 1992 Mining Annual Report. Appendix I.
    • Waage, Bruce C., 1993, Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana: Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report; 1992 Field Season. December 1993.
    • Waage, Bruce C., 1998, Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana: 1997 Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report; December 1, 1996 - November 30, 1997 Survey Period. March 23, 1998.
    • Waage, Bruce C., 1999, Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana: 1998 Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report; December 1, 1997 - November 30, 1998 Survey Period. February 24, 1999.
    • Waage, Bruce C., 2000, Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana: 1999 Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report; December 1, 1998 - November 30, 1999. February 2000.
    • Waage, Bruce C., 2001, Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana: 2000 Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report; December 1, 1999 - November 30, 2000. March 30, 2001.
    • Western Technology and Engineering, Inc. (WESTECH). 1994. Wildlife Monitoring Absaloka Mine Area Annual Report, 1993. Montana SMP 85005. OSMP Montana 0007C. Mar. 12, 1994.
    • Western Technology and Engineering, Inc. (WESTECH)., 1990, Wildlife monitoring: Absaloka Mine Area Annual Report, 1990. 12/21/89-12/20/90. Montana SMP 85005 R1. OSMP Montana 0007B. Febr. 15, 1991.
    • Western Technology and Engineering, Inc. (WESTECH)., 1991, Wildlife monitoring and additional baseline inventory: Absaloka Mine Area Annual Report, 1991. Montana SMP 85005 R1. OSMP Montana 0007B. Febr. 25, 1991.
    • Western Technology and Engineering, Inc. (WESTECH)., 1993, Wildlife Monitoring Asaloka Mine Area Annual Report, 1992. Montana SMP 85005 R1. OSMP Montana 00078. 1993.
    • Western Technology and Engineering, Inc. (WESTECH)., 1997, Wildlife Monitoring Absaloka Mine Area Annual Report, 1996. Montana SMP 85005. OSMP Montana 0007D. Mar. 1997.
    • Western Technology and Engineering, Inc. (WESTECH)., 1999, Wildlife Monitoring Absaloka Mine Area Annual Report, 1998. SMP 85005. OSMP Montana 0007E. April 1999.
    • Western Technology and Engineering, Inc. (WESTECH)., 2000, Wildlife Monitoring Absaloka Mine Area Annual Report, 1999. Montana SMP 85005. OSMP Montana 0007E. February 2000.
    • Western Technology and Engineering, Inc. (WESTECH)., 2001, Wildlife Monitoring Absaloka Mine Area Annual Report, 2000. Montana SMP 85005. OSMP Montana 0007E. February 2001.
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Citation for data on this website:
Desert Cottontail — Sylvilagus audubonii.  Montana Field Guide.  Montana Natural Heritage Program and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.  Retrieved on July 30, 2014, from http://FieldGuide.mt.gov/detail_AMAEB01070.aspx
 
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